There’s a building in the DFW Metroplex where I meet clients from time to time. All things being relative in the realm of office buildings, it’s a lovely space. On the outside, gleaming walls reach about as high above the horizon as one might find away from downtown, reflecting the azure Texas sky and (very) occasional cloud back to itself in cut-up geometrics. Inside, an enormous winding staircase carries a person out of the cavernous (and empty, save for the lone security guard behind a looming desk) lobby and onto The Floor, an endless sea of cubicles that teems with bobbing heads tethered by cords that dangle from ears and fingers skipping across boundless waves of keyboards.
Golden sun pours through expansive glass, pushing back the soft blue of the fluorescents, reviving hope of a natural world free of steel and plastic and acoustic fabrics meant to absorb the sounds that swell to crescendos of monotony and malaise in such a place.
Early each afternoon, window blinds on the south side close quietly on their own, even as they reopen on the north. Inside a dark closet somewhere in the building, a server unceremoniously knocks out the zeroes and ones of computer modeling that recognizes even minute adjustments for each day’s solar arc. Workers need not trouble themselves about the sun in their eyes; such glare will never arrive in this technological wonderland that reaches well beyond thermostats and HVAC systems to smooth potential discomforts and distinctions of the season.
It is fitting, I understand, that a person with no true internal compass, who transposes east and west as easily as a two and a three, should find himself in a place where solstice and equinox are nearly indistinguishable, where the peak of a season is marked only in degrees—on average, it feels like just ten or twenty—where Nature herself, not a computer, has managed to smooth seasonal distinctions to near invisibility. This weekend marks one complete trip around the sun since the hurricane they named Harvey leveled and washed away large swathes of this state and I relocated here in the wake of that storm, in part to work through its destruction, in part to prepare for the next one—really, many others—yet to come. It proved a season without seasons, a time marked as squares on a calendar more than by familiar cues: the rising or dropping of temperatures, the fullness or nakedness of trees, the kinds of produce that are in season, and of course, the snow.
The grass outside my window is as green and lush today as it is any other day, any other month. The caretaker waters and nourishes it all year long, never allowing it to pull on its brown wool coat. The proximity to even hotter climes means fresh produce of any kind is always in season. The birds never leave, even in January brazenly hopping around on the roof of my car and refusing to move when I load my groceries in the parking lot. I realized I’d lost track of the changing of the vernal guard when the weather man suggested picking berries in “the cool of the day” at a time when mercury hovered at 83 degrees when I got up at five o’clock in the morning. I assumed, without consulting a calendar, that we were in the heart of summer, maybe even approaching the turn when the days would start to grow shorter, nights might drop into the seventies. The bluebells had already come and gone. And then the crepe myrtle bloomed in early June, her thick, delicious pink clusters covering knuckly, sinewy branches. I knew we’d only started.
It’s disorienting, though not distressing. As with every changing season, this season of no seasons requires a kind of recalibration. I know it’s fall because we’re watching the brew of hurricanes again. A friend from up north shared some sun sweet yellow cherry tomatoes with me, the kind I used to grow in my garden that always erupted in August to remind me summer was coming to a close. I hear the kids are going back to school this week, so I need to watch for the school zone speed limit to be active again. And I suppose the bird population will start to tick up soon. The blinds will know when to open, and when to close. The sun will pour in, and I’ll have no need to shield my eyes.
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