fitness · season transitions

Sunset on summer: the beach in early fall

This weekend I’m in Nantucket, off the coast of Massachusetts. It’s my first trip here, and the island is lovely and verdant and oh-so Nantuckety: here’s what I mean.

The look of this place is very tightly regulated and very cohesive; all cedar shingles all the time. But the beaches are under no such ordinances, nor would they pay attention if the local town meeting passed some conventions on how beaches should comport themselves.

To me, beaches are synonymous with summer. My whole life I’ve gone with family to the South Carolina coast for swimming, walking, playing, and hanging out (including foolhardy sunbathing in my teens; glad those days are over) on the wide, hard sand coastline, with its warm water.

This year I didn’t make it to the SC coast, as I usually do, because COVID. However, this short getaway to a New England island, with its own shore beauty, is feeling like a good way to bid goodbye to summer. The weather is coolish and windy, so I’m wearing a light sweater for daytime walking and contemplation. For sunset, it’s necessary to add a hat and jacket. I’m still barefoot– I mean, it is the beach– but the toes are a little chilly in the oddly cool sand.

Each day around 6:30pm we head over to the beach at Madaket, bundled up with beach chairs in tow, to witness the colors of the early fall sunset over the water.

Setting sun, hovering over the sea.

The air and sand start to cool down. Others join us for the show.

Sun, sinking below the watery horizon.
Sun, sinking below the watery horizon.

Everything is orange in tone, just for a moment.

Last reflections of sunset in the distance.
Last reflections of sunset in the distance.

The orange glow deepens, now in contrast with dark and metallic gray sand and waves.

Evening has arrived.
Evening has arrived.

Are we ever ready for the end of summer? In warmer climates, you can try to hang on for a bit longer; but here in New England, fall makes its presence known. There are hikes and fall riding (I love fall cycling!) to look forward to, but many of our outdoor activities will have to taper off or shift substantially.

One thing I’m learning from the past 6–500 months that comprises the pandemic is, nature is out there. Sunsets are out there. Beaches are out there. Summer is passing into fall. Another season is coming. I’m going to work on making friends with it, and continuing to go to the beach seems like as good a way as any.

So farewell, summer beach, and hello, fall beach. And I’ll be here when winter beach arrives.

Readers, do you have any rituals for bidding an official farewell to summer? Do you turn around and say, where did it go? Do you take each day as it comes? I’d love to hear from you about how you’re experiencing this natural change. Thanks for reading.

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