This was the banner on our NOAA forecast page this morning. Just like that, over night, Summer is officially and dramatically over. While drenching rains have not yet arrived, snow dusted the entire Swan Range to our east, and it’s parka-cold. Our furnace came on for the first time, and I brought the wool throws out of storage to place on chairs and sofas, with a stack near the doors to the porch. I’m looking forward to early evenings out there with the lanterns lit and the table-top heater going, and wool blankets on our laps. The fire managers say the fires have been dampened down, and while even next weeks’ cold front may not put them out, I’m thinking the hint of smoke I smelled this morning might be from someone’s wood stove, though more likely, the smoldering nearby fires, which may take a long time to go dead. But, now that Summer is over, I’m already dreaming of an Indian Summer in October, with golden leaves on the trees and sparkling blue lake water, and the clear, clean big skies of Montana.
I walked down by the water in the cool cloudy afternoon. With so many stones washed up this year, we’ve greatly expanded our rocky beach. The red umbrellas have been stored away and the kayaks are all on their rack–I didn’t find a single beach toy or swim mask, or anything to bear witness that summer once happened. Looking at the paddle board, it seemed so long ago that Megan and her three friends were lined up in a row, holding on to the board and furiously kicking their way back home from the Lutheran Camp’s diving board. The sailboat still bobs out there and we’re hopeful there will be a sail or two before it’s taken to dry dock. It’s been two or three weeks since we’ve been out, but, oh, did it provide a summer of adventures with all of our guests! From the frustrating attempt to raise the jib sail with Megan and group, to the voyage with the Millers in which we never got up to one knot of speed, and climaxing in the captain-overboard episode with the Stuebbe family, when we nearly crashed on the neighbor’s rocks. Already, it all seems so long ago.
The Summer weather records are pouring in. It was the driest since 1929–the Dust Bowl years. All-time heat records for the date were broken. Like many people, there was lots of “I can’t wait for this Summer to be over” laments in our household, yet, now that it’s gone, I’m instantly melancholy. I know it’s a coincidence that our Summer ended at the same time the Cassini mission ended. Gorgeous photos were all over the news sites, and words of bittersweet sadness from those who worked on the project for 22 years. Thomas H. Zurbuchen, NASA’s associate administrator for science, said, “Cassini is really one of those quintessential missions from NASA. It hasn’t just changed what we know about Saturn, but how we think about the world.”
Back in April, when Cassini went between the beautiful rings of Saturn for the first time, I wrote on this blog, “Humankind has always looked to the celestial stars overhead to try to make some sense of a grand scheme we cannot comprehend. Thank you, Cassini, for making me feel connected this morning.” I’m feeling the same way on this morning, saying good-bye to both Summer and that spacecraft. Here we are, lowly earthlings, unable to exercise any control whatsoever of our daily weather patterns, yet, these same earthlings have sent a spacecraft into space, which did everything it was asked to do, including exploding into the stars at the exact minute it was programmed to do, 22 years ago. I don’t know how to think about any of this, except that what happens up there and what happens down here, are somehow not separate from one another. The mystery and the wonder of it all…