Jeff O'Handley

The Doubting Writer Finds His Voice

The Tipping Point


I’m an early riser.
Some years ago, faced with a long commute, I started rising around 5:30 in the morning, which was earlier than I really needed to be up. I like to have time to ease into the day, have a couple of cups of coffee, maybe something to eat. When I stopped commuting and had to get the kids up for school, I kept waking up early, in part because it was ingrained, and in part because of that selfish desire for ‘me’ time. For the most part, I still do, even though the kids can (mostly) get themselves up, and (mostly) don’t have to be anywhere as early as they did during school. I like the quiet hours of the early day, and it gives me time to read and comment on a bunch of blogs.
This past week of early rising has made me sharply aware of something: in my little corner of the world, we’ve reached the tipping point of summer. It started this week, when I noticed that the morning was a little darker than it had been the week before. ‘Darker’ may not be the best word—dimmer is much more effective. I can tell myself it was because we had some bad weather earlier in the week, some clouds in the morning, but I know better. Summer is winding down.
Photo by me!
Quite technically speaking, the actual tipping point for summer would be around the summer solstice, which fell this year on June 21. According to timeanddate.com, sunrise was 5:17 AM, sunset was 8:37 PM, for 15 hours, 19 minutes, and 19 seconds of daylight. The following day was four seconds shorter. Each day is shorter than the day before, though it’s hard to notice at first, and because summer is blessed with protracted twilight, it’s light until well after 9 PM for several weeks after the solstice, and we mostly don’t notice a thing.
But the tipping point—the point where you notice the change—eventually occurs, and I’ve been seeing the signs. Cicadas buzzing in the trees (my area was out of the zone of the 17-year Cicadas, so we did not get swept up in Cicadamania), different wildflowers coming into bloom, more than a few trees showing flashes of yellow in their foliage, geese joining up in large flocks in the field instead of in pairs and small family groupings. Yesterday, I noticed the first hints of flowers on some goldenrod, which is typically thought of as a fall wildflower.
Then there’s the weather. After a hot spell (it was in the upper eighties and low nineties last week), a cold front came through on Saturday, mercifully dropping the temperature. The last few mornings have been very cool and breezy. When I walk the dog in the morning, there’s a touch of fall in the air, especially when one of the neighbors has to light his wood stove in the morning. It’s not so much the temperature that makes me think of fall as it is the angle and color of the light. It puts me in mind of back to school.
I feel like I’m at a tipping point in writing as well. Not in any sort of bad way, because I know that’s how it sounds. Though I’m waiting on feedback from a couple of beta readers, I’ve been doing more work on BARTON’S WOMEN, and I’m at roughly the midpoint in the story. Like summer, the story’s actual midpoint comes slightly after the physical midpoint of the manuscript. I’m hoping to query this by the end of summer. The calendar tells me that this year, the end of summer is September 22. Many Americans consider Labor Day (September 2, this year) to be the end of summer, but for me, it’s always been the end of August. That’s my target.
Eh. I hope I haven’t bummed you out by talking about the upcoming end of summer (though it probably cheers my Australian readers out there, because summer is coming for you!). There’s still plenty of time left, the Dog Days are almost upon us, so there’s still time for barbecues and beaches and block parties. Enjoy!

10 Responses

  1. I've noticed it's not so bright in the morning when I get up. Yep, it's depressing. I like taking early morning walks. Can't do that when it's dark and cold out!

    Good luck on your project. Hopefully nothing distracts you from your goal (because it always seems to happen to me!!! – haha).

  2. At my house we always say once Fourth of July is over, summer is half gone. It's sad in some ways. We wish the youth of summer would last longer than it does. And for me, personally, I just turned fifty in May so it feels very much like summer is more than half over in other ways too. Luckily, though, fall is my favorite season. 🙂

  3. Say it ain't so! I was hoping that due to challenging economic times, this year's winter had been cancelled.

  4. Our summers don't start here until July (at least for me!) because school doesn't let out until the last day of June. I'm hoping to hang on tightly to these last few weeks though!

  5. Summer will never be over! I deny its fading away, at least until Christmas, and then the cold will leave after New Year's. That's my wish and forecast. 🙂

    Thanks for the well wishes for my Blog Tour. Writer’s Mark

  6. I like the Fall better anyway. I can't wait for you to query for BW. I think you're going to have much better luck with this one. Not that PL isn't exceptional, I just think in our "day and age" BW might be an easier sell. Also, it's just an incredible book!

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