We have many happy memories of kayak camping last October in Hudson River Islands State Park with our friends Vlad and Johna (aka, wind against current): The flaming colors. Honking flocks of geese overhead. The tang of wood smoke. The submerged pickup truck (!).
But the thing that sticks with us most about that trip was the sunlight. More specifically, the slant of it. It warmed us and blinded us, and stretched our shadows far into the woods so we felt like giants.
The light this time of year is just… different. And it’s not just our imaginations, says Lynda V. Mapes of The Seattle Times, in her 11/6/14 article, Why autumn shines a golden light. Her geeky source—Dale Durran, chairman of the Department of Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Washington—explains:
The position of the sun in the sky is changing. That, in turn, alters how we perceive color and light. In the height of summer, the sun is as far overhead as it gets. But the sun drops and drops after the summer solstice in June — and the change speeds up at the midpoint toward winter. Right about now.
The seasons are the result of the tilt of our planet on its axis as we orbit the sun. Picture a tennis ball on a pen, with the pen held at a 23.5-degree angle. Now rotate the ball (Earth) on the same angle, fixed around a stationary object (the sun). The farther from the equator, the more obliquely the sun’s light strikes Earth — that’s the longer, slanted light we are bathed in now, instead of the full-on beams we bask in at high summer.
And the journey will continue in the progression toward winter, taking us into shorter days, with the sun even lower on the horizon.
Thanks, Ailsa, for this week’s—er, last week’s—travel theme, autumn. Enjoy the season (and the golden sunshine) while it lasts. 🙂