Today (Sunday) was a perfect fall day. Yet it still feels like we have one foot in summer because the humidity remained unseasonably high. We have yet to close our in-ground pool, put away the lawn furniture, cover the grill, empty the flower pots of annual flowers, and, of course, the most dreaded task…. rake the leaves.
But there are definite signs of a seasonal shift. The squirrels almost become like crack addicts in their frenzy of gathering and hiding acorns. They scamper from dawn to dusk, walking on the edge of fences, across the backyard on electric and telephone wires, and up and down the surrounding trees.
Leaves are already accumulating in my neighbor’s front yard, dropped by the grand oak tree that grows on the border between her property and ours. For now most of the leaves are on her property, thank goodness.
Daylight is disappearing. By 7 o’clock, the sky becomes dark. We haven’t really adjusted to this change and are still in full swing as the sun goes down, wondering “where did the time go?” Kids are no longer in the park past 5 o’clock. Instead they are at home on their smart phones or computers.
The crickets have been deafening of late. They serenade us at night if we happen to be outdoors finishing a task, or just popping out to bring out the garbage or steal a glance at the “harvest” moon.
(Fall moon 2018, known as harvest moon)
I am making a promise to myself to try to notice when they stop singing. Most of our outdoor plants are on their way out. Many have been savaged either by slugs or moths who chomp through them at night when we’re not looking.
The occasional goldfinch still shows up for a dip in our backyard bird bath. The sunflowers have come and gone, so they won’t be around much longer.
We haven’t seen the cardinals for weeks, nor the titmice or woodpeckers. We stopped feeding them mid-summer when we realized a rat was showing up for the food, so the cacophony of birds that delighted us with the arrival of spring has dwindled to nearly nothing. We miss their songs which have been replaced by the chattering of busy squirrels burying their acorns throughout the day.
Along the harbor road the seasons are noticeably changing. The exotic birds (herons, egrets) have moved on to warmer places, but the cormorants are perched in groups on the boats still anchored there. Goldenrod is abundant everywhere we look, and the bees are grateful for that.
Almost without noticing, at home we have switched from summer fare to more substantial grub. We have eaten yams a few times lately, as well as roasted chicken and potatoes.
At the supermarket I find myself eyeing the pork loins and meatloaf mix. The occasional mojito at a nearby happy hour has vanished and isreplaced by red wines and frothy beers. Suddenly, we crave pumpkin soup, baked apples, cauliflower, baked squash and apple cider.
As a family we are mostly winter people. My husband craves the silence of winter and the relief from tedious outdoor chores including mowing the grass and doing the necessary pool and yard maintenance.
My daughter loves winter walks in the park nearby and along the shores of our coast. Together we’ve learned to identify several species of ducks, but there’s so much more we need to learn. My son is congenitally biased toward winter holidays, his favorites being Halloween, Thanksgiving and Christmas.
I love brisk autumn and winter walks, when the bones of the landscape become visible. When there are no leaves to obstruct the view of the horizon. When you come across an abandoned osprey nest and wonder where its former inhabitants have gone and whether they will come back.
Ancient humans were much more in tune with the change of seasons. Their survival depended on it. Many of their remaining ruins remind us of how important the movement of the sun was for them, as they were aligned to capture the summer and winter solstices.
(Summer solstice dagger at Chaco Canyon, New Mexico)
I am fascinated by how, for centuries, we moved almost unconsciously into the next season as we adapted to the changes. How much longer will we have actual distinct seasons…or will we suffer extreme weather in our winters and summers? Will we be driven back into a deeper awareness of the seasons because our lives will again depend on that awareness?