I’M SITTING OUSIDE a coffee shop, enjoying the nice relatively mild Houston evening. A beautiful thundershower powered through the area this afternoon, bringing with it temperatures just a tad cooler. Normally these summer storms leave behind nothing but steaming mugginess, but the air tonight is on the less-humid side. The breeze from the Gulf of Mexico provides added comfort. And so I say to myself, “It won’t be long now. Fall will soon be here.”
That is a phrase that is repeated probably 3 million times a day in this city, and it’s uttered millions of times more in this state and the entire Gulf coast region. It is a phrase based on solid evidence, we tell ourselves. Tonight is one of those pieces of evidence. The other morning when I stepped outside to retrieve the paper at 6 a.m. and it didn’t feel as if I’d stepped into a sauna was another one. Some of even claim to smell the approaching change in the air.
The fact that when you look at the weather app on your smart phone you no longer see temperatures in the high 90s predicted for the week ahead, that’s another clue. My friend Mary bases her belief that fall is just around the corner on the hummingbirds she is starting to see in her yard. They are on their way south, she assures me, because they know that cooler weather is on the way. My sister Delfina, when she lived in Texas, would always swear, as early as the second week of August, that she could tell that la canicula, the dog days, had been broken and that summer’s days were numbered. Ya no falta mucho, she would assure us: it won’t be long now. We laughed at her and thought she was delusional, but she was probably no more delusional than the rest of us. She was just a little early, that’s all. And, who knows? Maybe her old bones sensed something the rest of us couldn’t.
We also cite history. We all have anecdotal evidence of fall’s actual early arrival. Most of us remember such and such hurricane that brutally broke summer’s will, but we usually don’t talk about those because none of us wants to be seen as wishing for a hurricane. Not after Katrina and Ike.
My favorite historical reference is that Saturday, September 15, sometime in the 1970s when I was watching the Chilympiad parade and a cool front swept through, dropping the temperature 20 degrees or more. My memory has never been that good, but that image of standing on the sidewalk and feeling that cold front arrive is etched indelibly in my mind forever. Others offers similar instances of summer’s early demise. In August and September, it seems, we are all weather experts.
And we’re all religious. For, while we like to believe that we have hard evidence and history on our side, what we — those of us who choose to live in this part of the country — have is faith. And hope. We have faith that sooner or later, the heat and the humidity will be swept back into the Gulf for a few months, and we will tell ourselves that those five or six months of relatively mild weather make putting up with summer’s oppression worth it.
As for hope, it is that the change will arrive sooner rather than later.