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Cling to the three weeks of summer your wall calendar says you have left, if you like. But the season's changing.

PMG PHOTO: JAIME VALDEZ - Buddy the Elf, a.k.a. Gary Kristensen of Happy Valley, took first place in the first heat of the West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta in Tualatin last year.Labor Day has come and gone. Kids across Washington County headed back to school this week. Even if the toasty weather hasn't quite caught up yet, it's undeniable: Summer is ending.

There's a dichotomy between the astronomical, or traditional, definition of a season, and the meteorological, or colloquial, definition.

Just as describing September as a "summer month" might give us pause in casual conversation, the weather experts don't think of September as summer at all. In meteorological reckoning, summer starts June 1 and ends Aug. 31, and autumn starts Sept. 1 and ends Nov. 30.

But according to our calendars, and measuring the season as starting with summer solstice — the longest day of the year, when the sun is highest in the sky — and ending with the autumnal equinox — as the lengthening night overtakes the shortening day — it's still summer until Sept. 23. Yes, even though we're not supposed to wear white after Labor Day. Yes, even though most kids are back in school.

You can call the first two-thirds of September what you want. But the rhythms of our day-to-day lives have shifted. School zones are back in effect. Public pools and parks and libraries are a little quieter at midday. For those of us who have kids in schools ourselves, our schedules may be barely recognizable from what they were a week ago.

We have to say, we've been looking forward to it.

Whatever your reckoning of when summer begins and ends, it's just about the right length. There's time for kids and the adults who work hard to educate them to decompress after a nine-month school year. There's time for summer festivals, hikes, beach trips and ballgames. It gets hot, but usually not too hot, and usually not for too long. The longer days are enjoyable, since with the nicer weather, we naturally want to stay out later.

And by this time of the year, we're getting to the point of being tired of it: the heat, the lazy days, the light skies late into the evening. All good things must come to an end, and summer is a good thing that must come to an end.

So here's to fall! Students are back in their classrooms, learning and growing. The days will, soon enough, get cooler and shorter. We've got plenty of more community fun to look forward to, from regional traditions like Oktoberfest and Fruit Loop to our local late-summer, early-fall outdoor festivals like El Grito in Hillsboro, Family Fest in Tigard, and ¡Viva Tualatin! and the West Coast Giant Pumpkin Regatta in Tualatin.

Letting go of summer isn't always easy. So here's another reminder to go slow in school zones and watch out for school buses, and start getting your rakes and leaf blowers ready.

And don't forget to enjoy it. Fall can be every bit as good as summer. It's just different. And whether you prefer the astronomical definition or the meteorological definition of the season, there's no denying that.


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