In matters of global economics, the concepts of millions and billions and trillions seem disconnected from day-to-day budgeting. Who knows, I wonder, what all those zeros at the end of whole numbers really mean
As I watch the season progress, I realize that my sense of numbers in the world around me is equally as confused. In the middle of May, the hundred days of summer feel like a zillion days to me. My body senses a limitless promise in that span of time.
When I have just emerged from winter, I refuse to imagine the return of cold and snow. The magnitude of the new warmth and the benevolence of green leaves skew my sense of time, and I instinctively multiply the 100 days of summer by 1,000 or by 10,000, and I simply dismiss the idea all those days could ever be used up.
Then, in just a few days, maybe 50 days or so, halfway through the summer, the mathematics of self-deception fails me. Only half the days of the season are gone, but the veil of June magic has gone too. The possibility that frost could arrive in six or seven weeks suddenly makes sense. Winter suddenly makes sense, too.
Somewhere in middle summer, around the time cicadas start to sing, the illusion of an indeterminate 100 days unravels. At some point between the number 99 and the number 50, innocence is lost, self-deception revealed, and counting becomes an exercise in measuring the fragility of summer.
This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I'll be back again next week with notes for the fifth week of late summer. In the meantime, it’s almost early fall. Make every number count.