The Daily Change

photographs and text by Brian Willson

All our days are different. Never mind “stuck in a rut,” or “another day, another dollar.” Every day is unique and special somehow—whether only a combination of the time of year and our chronological age, the people we happen to see, what we happen to laugh at, why we cry.

I’ve been thinking about the subtle changes in the photoperiod here on our tilted planet. For if our planet weren’t tilted, there’d be no photoperiod. There’d be no seasons. No winter storms, no summer doldrums. No thousand-mile bird migrations. And if, like its moon, our planet didn’t spin at just its peculiar angle from our sun, we’d have no night and day.

A tilt, a spin. They might seem inconsequential, random things—mere geometry. But they’re not. Not at all. They’re miraculously anomalous.

Perhaps our planet’s tilt is why I ended up here at the 44th parallel, instead of the 30th, where I grew up. I like the daily change. You can see it, feel it. Although the days just now are as long as they were a few weeks before the solstice, July is markedly different from June. The breeze is warmer, the shadows denser. Birds behave differently, different plants bloom.

Wood lilies have opened and blueberries are ripening up at Beech Hill, where, in late afternoon, Jack and I took a hike, as we do every day. But today differed notably from yesterday. Still sunny, still warm. Still breezy—although maybe just a little breezier than yesterday. But the filtered light on the ferns by the brook didn’t look exactly the same. And I saw a blue jay for a change. And I heard no ovenbird.

I heard no wood-pewee, either, and I must say I missed the little guy. But at the summit, I did still hear the wind-blown summer trill of a Savannah sparrow.

If you pay attention to everything—the big things and the little things—you’ll recognize the differences each day brings. Every single day of our lives, every journey from dawn until dusk, this eye-blink in our sun’s path toward red giant, is a perfect, matchless miracle.

Beech Hill List
Beginning at 5 p.m., I hiked the wooded trails.

1. Red-eyed vireo (v)
2. Cedar waxwing
3. Chestnut-sided warbler
4. Black-capped chickadee (v)
5. Eastern towhee (v)
6. Veery
7. Common yellowthroat (v)
8. American redstart (juvenile)
9. Blue jay
10. American crow
11. American goldfinch (v)
12. Gray catbird
13. American robin
14. Eastern phoebe
15. Song sparrow (v)
16. Field sparrow (v)
17. Rose-breasted grosbeak (v)
18. Herring gull
19. Savannah sparrow (v)
20. Yellow warbler (v)
21. Hermit thrush (v)


22. Ring-billed gull
23. Mourning dove

v = Voice only
*Also elsewhere