“Austin is going to be a tired city today,” was a local reddit post on a recent Thursday morning. Most of us hadn’t slept much Wednesday night.
Rain had been in the forecast all week, and all the Texas sages were bent down with flowers; but I know better than to trust any indicators until the clouds make good on their promises. Summer heat was holding and the humidity had reached that point where it feels like there’s no oxygen left. Moods sagged.
Afternoon clouds were like continents lit from within, arranging and re-arranging themselves across the sky, enormous, moving slowly, stirring up hope that the storms wouldn’t pass us by completely.
Right up until we went to bed I feared the storms would skirt us, but at around 1:30 in the morning a pounding rain and steady flashes of lightning woke me, and I wouldn’t be sleeping again until after five.
I took to the couch with Travis, getting up frequently to watch the storm from every vantage point. One bolt of lightning sent what sounded like a rifle shot blasting through the house, setting off car alarms and inspiring me to make my way out the front door, umbrella in hand, into the downpour, lightning flashing every six seconds, trying to keep Travis from heading out and down the driveway – just to make sure it wouldn’t be my car disturbing any neighbors who might still miraculously be sleeping.
I was pretty sure our house had been struck. It hadn’t been, but not far from us a man’s house was in fact hit by lightning: it blew a hole in the front of his house and started a fire. Imagine: the fire department has arrived in the middle of the night while the front of your house burns and the rest of the house floods. That poor man must have thought it was the end of the world.
It was quite a night. Everyone I spoke to the next day said they felt the storm was right over their house. Half a foot of rain that night, and an inch and a half from subsequent showers, and the yard hasn’t needed a bit of help from me. Interesting things that grow from spores sprouted up, bulged, and blew apart – the fungal version of jumping for joy at the relief of a September rain.
And now this whole part of the world is in a state of autumn bloom almost like spring: there are flowers everywhere. An odd draping fragile cactus brought forth an array of carrion-scented blossoms that sent me searching for the macro lens. It was still so humid that morning, I had to keep swiping at the filter with a cloth; but this cactus doesn’t give me flowers every year, so I had to take advantage.
Even the weeds are bursting with bee food, and all the shrubs buzz. Spiderwort, rosemary, salvia, rock roses, you name it. No wonder in a climate like ours I experience the odd confusion about what season it is: it looks and feels just like spring, with that same relief that comes with having made it through the year’s most difficult season.
All around town the crape myrtles are back in bloom too, their assortment of colors vivid against the sky. It’s a few weeks before leaves start changing, so the landscape is a hundred shades of green. From a distance you don’t even notice the fact that insects have been making lace of the greenery all summer.
After a few days of scattered showers (the kind where your car gets sprinkled for ten seconds as you drive along – really scattered), a few breezes summoned themselves and we began to believe autumn would arrive. This morning it was actually cool. It’s been a very easy summer, but we are always relieved when the end is in sight.
Looking over the photos for this post I am struck by their depiction of the theme I’m chasing: this transition from the hazy atmosphere of summer’s last storms to the clarity of autumn. Our temperatures will hold steadily in the high 80’s and low 90’s for weeks, but we bring out our jeans and hoodies as if our mornings were covered in frost. It’s the idea of the season that makes the season, as we all know.