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Monday, September 01, 2008

Sol y Sombra: The Beginning of the End

August ended just a few hours ago. There are still a few weeks of official summer as far as the calendar is concerned, and here in Valencia we probably have a few months of shirt sleeve weather. It is every bit as bright and sunny this morning as yesterday morning but I can't help but feel that summer has somehow slipped past. Yesterday was the last Sunday of August and probably the last really busy day at the beach this season. I remember growing up in America's Midwest when right about now you were just waiting for that first cold day when the temperature dropped to around freezing—a real sign that summer had ended. The climate here isn't nearly as drastic and summer slowly slides into fall like a hot bath gradually cooling after you turn off the spigot.

If the spigot here wasn't turned off about two weeks ago, someone definitely turned it down to a slow dribble. Just when you thought the heat was unbearable, summer hit its apex and, almost overnight, it was just warm outside instead of sweltering. Instead of leaving for a bike ride to the beach at 5:30 in the afternoon, lathered in 50 spf sunscreen, I find it safe to leave at 3:30 with 30 spf. Instead of diving into the sea that is practically at body temperature, I find that first dive to be a bit refreshing. Hot coffee in the morning has edged out the ice frapp├ęs that I preferred during the hottest couple of weeks of August. I don't have to run throughout the day to find shade, fearing the sun like some celestial bully.

Today most people in Valencia will go back to their businesses, take down the signs they had put up bragging about their month-long absence, and get back to work; appetites start returning for food that hasn't come directly out of the refrigerator; turning on an oven doesn't seem like suicide; and you begin to think that, sooner or later, you may have to return to wearing socks. Fall is a great time of year in Valencia, it's like summer in Seattle. As pleasant as autumn may be, I can't help but cling to summer like a shipwreck victim holding on to a bit of driftwood.

I still have to close all of the curtains and blinds in my apartment to keep out the heat, but this battle with the sun has lost the desperation of only a few weeks ago when I had threatened to turn on the air conditioning almost daily. As it turns out, I only bothered with the AC on about three occasions this summer, following instead the example of the Spanish who use resources like electricity a lot more judiciously than we Americans. This was about how many times I was forced to turn on the heat last winter. Last night I actually groped for a top sheet to pull over me.

I can't recall the first day I opted to wear shorts this year but I'll try to keep a record of when I return to long pants. I don't know how my feet will take to being shod again after at least three months of going in flip-flops. I can't believe that soon I'll have to start wearing a shirt around the house. I love summer here in Valencia and I want to wring it out for all it's worth. I am going to celebrate summer today by christening my new 46 centimeter paella pan that covers almost the entire top of my stove. My 40 centimeter pan just left me feeling like half a man. It also really wasn't big enough for a paella that contained half of a rabbit and half of a chicken, so it wasn't all male overcompensation issues that made me buy the new pan.

*I had written about this same sort of phenomena before, back when I was trying to adjust to my northern migration to Seattle from south Florida.

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