Saturday, June 13, 2009

Summer Light

It took a woman to point it out to me many years ago, a Florida native of course, that there is a noticeable change in the quality of light between winter and summer in the Sunshine State.
It isn't easy to quantify the change exactly but once you've seen it you will know what she meant, just as I do. In winter the sunlight has a harder edge to it, in summer the light burns with a white heat intensity that spells heat and humidity and lassitude. It may be that summer just naturally produces more heat as the sun gets overhead and thus the sunlight looks hotter. Perhaps the heat and humidity and the stillness of the air gives the sunlight a more summery look.You know it's summer around here because the air gets thicker, the clouds get thicker and the saltwater gets warmer, above 80 degrees (27C). That water temperature is the indicator that tells me when we are in hurricane season. Hurricanes use the energy in warm water to power up and until water temperatures reach 80 degrees there isn't enough energy usually, to get the storms going.So early and late season hurricanes (normally the season runs June 1 to November 30th in the Atlantic basin) tend to form in the Western Caribbean where the waters warm up ahead of the main Atlantic Ocean and stay warm later into winter. Meanwhile we learn to live with and enjoy the bright white heat intensity of summer sunshine:I like the colors of summer, defined for me by the green of the vegetation in various shades, the blue of the sky and the puffy white clouds that grow dark as they bring the promise of rain. That's another great virtue of living in South Florida, the rainy season comes when it is warm.I spent too many winters dreading the onset of California's viciously cold winter rainy season which turn dust into mud and sidewalks into streams. Of course it'snothing compared to the cold dark winters of the Far North but I hated winters in cold damp coastal California. Winters in the Keys are a time of occasional cold but the low tempoeratures rarely last more than a few days at a time and rain is light in the winter, a few drops fall as the cold front arrives. I can enjoy the drama of summer wtorms when the temperatures are hovering above 80 degrees.The heat of summer is, I find, less oppressive in the islands than it is on the mainland, due no doubt to the water surrounding the Keys. Supposedly that also helps keep winter temperatures a little warmer than the rest of South Florida. Which of course suits me. Besides if there are sugar apples growing there's not much wrong with where you live. At least I'm pretty sure this is a soursop nestled in a halo of sunlight:I mentioned in another recent essay that there is a realty company soliciting bids on homes and I found another such sign on Thomas Street:I'm not sure about this "make an offer" stuff but it all comes down to two of my favorite colors for the time of year, blue and white.