A few days ago we set yet another record high for the date, but this morning is cool and showery. This afternoon we may have sun, but right now the sky is dramatic, cumulus clouds billowing between areas of brilliant, cerulean blue sky.
Today marks the summer solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, that moment in astronomical time when we turn back towards autumn and winter. Fortunately, we still have many weeks of warmth and light to look forward to. The next four months are a culinary delight for many of us, as our gardens and farmers’ markets teem with the fruits of our labors and the land.
One of summer’s many joys is the lingering light. Well into the autumn we can usually get home from work and still have time to make dinner and eat on our porch, often sans mosquitoes. I treasure this time in the open air and sunlight, often with brilliant sunsets thrown in for our viewing enjoyment.
Like many Polio survivors I do not do well in humidity, nor in intense heat or cold, so days like today, with cool temperatures and relatively low humidity, are a source of immense pleasure. I imagine most of my friends would prefer it were ten degrees warmer, perfect weather for a day on the lake or beach, but I’m just fine the way it is.
Being the solstice we are reminded there is an arc to all events, and that everything reaches a nadir, only to begin the journey back to balance. Of course, balance is at best transitory, the movement of things being incessant and determined. Still, when the weather is like it is today, it is tempting to join the chorus of folks who want it to be this way all the time. Today is just about a perfect early summer day!
Of course, Vermont is famous for our changeable weather and dramatic seasonal shifts, and local ecosystems are well adapted to the drama. They take the ebb and flow of climate in relative stride, even as we humans struggle with the impacts of climatic variations, last year’s drought being a case in point. Our landscape is reflective of twelve thousand years of relative climate stability, dominated by organisms that do well in the cold.
Still, much change has taken place here since the last ice age. In this ecozone of somewhat limited diversity and complexity, change comes slowly, creeping across the landscape over eons. That slow pace of change has enabled the development of more interconnectivty than one might imagine. Now, as we approach midsummer, integration between organisms across the landscape is fierce, far outpacing anything we have created in our computer linked human world.
As average yearly temperatures rise this grande network of sharing threatens to fragment and fracture, perhaps resulting in large-scale ecosystem collapse. Here, we are literally in the middle of these planet-wide changes; we are much more severely impacted than our neighbors to the south, but considerably less affected than those to the north. For now, the impacts of climate change have a local and regional texture that somewhat masks the degree of change and threat, and allows for complacency in some places. Fifty years from now that won’t be the case, but by then the damage will be immensely difficult to undo.
Today, as we celebrate the richness and pleasure of summer, let us also note the changing climate and the threats, known and unknown, that accompany it. May we take solace and joy in this moment, even as we do what we are able to assure future generations inherit an intact, vibrant, living world.