Kish is a big pumpkins person. As soon as the pumpkins show up at the grocery store, she’ll buy a carload and put out as many as possible to make for a colorful autumn. That’s okay with me, because I think pumpkins are pretty pleasing, with their bold colors and rounded shape. In Stonington we have a nice shelf on our front step that is perfect for displaying pumpkins, where they go well with the remnants of this year’s crop of Black-eyed Susans and the dusty white plant the locals call “snow in summer.”
It’s still fairly warm here; yesterday the temperature may have briefly touched 70. But pumpkins aren’t the only sign of the cooler autumn to come. The edges of the leaves at the tops of the trees are starting to turn, there’s more animal activity, and the summer tourist season has ended. It’s a good time for pumpkins.
There’s still a lot of fall color out there to enjoy. Bright leaves are hanging on to many of the trees and bushes, and multi-hued pumpkins and gourds decorate many German Village doorsteps, but the mums are the stars of the color display right now. They give a strong incentive to get outside and get some fresh air and exercise — while continuing to maintain appropriate social distancing, of course.
We’ve had perfect autumn weather in Columbus over the past few days — cool and crisp in the morning, and sunny and warm in the afternoon before sunset. Enjoy it, and the brilliant colors, while they last!
Shuffle Season is that rare, all-too-brief time of year when the trees have dropped some — but not all — of their leaves. There is color in the canopy of leaves above and color on the ground and sidewalks below. And when you reach a stretch of leaf-covered sidewalk, the temptation to shuffle your feet through those drying leaves, to hear the rustle and crackle and crunch, and to kick some leaves into the air and let your inner kid loose, is irresistible.
I’m just old enough to remember when people routinely raked their leaves into leaf piles, let their kids play in the piles for a bit, and then raked the pile to the curb and burned the leaves. The authorities ultimately outlawed the burning, but I remember liking the distinctive autumnal smell of those burning leaves. The specific spicy smell is no doubt stored deep in my amygdala.
I’m too old now to play in leaf piles, but I can still enjoy Shuffle Season and those dried sidewalk leaves. You can, too.
Kish bought some gourds on her trip to the market the other day. They are now on our kitchen table, adding a flash of bright colors and an unmistakable “fall is here” message to the kitchen.
I’ve always liked gourds. Even as a kid, I preferred the gourds that looked creepy, with their curving, duck-like necks and warty bodies that wouldn’t stand upright. Mini-pumpkins have cornered the market on solid orange, but the gourds usually feature an arty and much more interesting mix of greens and yellows and oranges that are an important part of the autumn color palette. I like picking the gourds up and feeling their ridges and curves and pebbled exterior in my hands.
If there are gourds in the kitchen, can Halloween be far behind?
Today is August 31. It’s viewed as the traditional last day of summer. Mentally, we place June, July and August in the “summer” category, while September, October, and November are pegged into the “autumn” category.
Of course, not everyone agrees with this traditional cultural view of the seasons. The scientists among us would point out respectfully that the fall equinox doesn’t actually arrive until September 22. And in most parts of the country summer is still blazing on in full, shining force. The high today in Columbus will be in the 80s, for example, and down in Austin, Texas they’re still dealing with absurd, extreme “fry an egg on the sidewalk” heat, with the thermometer topping 100 degrees.
Not so in Stonington. Here, autumn seems to have come early. The last few days the morning temperature has been around 50 degrees — which is a bit bracing, candidly — and from the wood smoke smell you can tell that some people are using their fireplaces already. Our daily highs are now in the 60s. Add in a hefty breeze when you take your night-time walk, and you’re definitely in long pants and windbreaker territory. The leaves haven’t started to turn — yet — but there’s definitely that whiff of fall in the air.
For many of us, autumn is a favorite season, and in many parts of the country we bemoan its brevity. Summer heat hangs on into October, autumn passes in the blink of an eye, and then we move directly into the winter doldrums. It seems that things will be different in Maine, where fall’s early arrival suggests that it plans on staying for a while.
In short, if you like autumn, come to Maine. And bring your sweater.
Yesterday I walked to and from the office with temperatures in the 20s and a sharp, cutting wind reddening my face and sending my suddenly flimsy raincoat flapping around my legs.
This morning I woke up and, as I stood in our warm kitchen sipping a blessedly hot cup of coffee, I heard rain on the roof. I looked out into the backyard in the pre-dawn darkness and saw the glittering evidence of the Queen Mother of Crappy Weather on every plant, tree, shrub, and fencepost. Yes, that’s right — a dreaded onslaught of freezing rain has coated every object in ice. Freezing rain, for those lucky people who’ve never experienced it, means that it’s not quite cold enough for precipitation to fall as snow, but just cold enough for the rain to turn to ice once it hits the ground. It’s the worst winter weather of all because it’s cold, and wet, and frozen all at once, and it means the commute this morning will be slick and treacherous for drivers and pedestrians alike. There’s a breeze, too, and the weather page helpfully reports that it feels like 22 degrees out there.
It’s the kind of weather that makes February in Columbus inarguably the worst weather month of the year. But, it’s only November 15. Hey, Mother Nature! What gives?
We’ve once again experienced an abrupt mash-up of the seasons here in the Midwest. True fall weather has been fleeting, and it seems like we’ve moved directly and too quickly into winter. For those people, like me, who think autumn is the best season of the year — well, we feel cheated. We know Old Man Winter is going to arrive sooner or later, but can’t he at least wait until after we’ve had our Thanksgiving dinner before he hits us with freezing rain and another round of “wintry mix”?
If you’re in the Midwest, brace yourself, because it’s too cold too soon . . . again.
I was treated to this beautiful autumn scene of fallen, and falling, leaves on my way to work this morning. Unfortunately, it was about 26 freaking degrees and a bone-chilling arctic gale was blowing, too.
This illustrates the hard reality of our modern “seasons.” There is no fall anymore, not the kind that we remember — when the sky was clear and bright and dry, the temperatures were in the 50s, leaves crunched underfoot, and sweaters were the apparel of choice. There’s no spring, either. Just hot summer and cold winter, with about a week separating them on each end.
The leaves that have already fallen crunch underfoot. The walker kicks through the leaf piles, sending acorns skittering across the pavement. There’s a faint tang of wood smoke in the crisp, clear air, and the leaves give off their own spicy scent. And everywhere the trees are bursting with color when they are struck by the morning sunshine.
The Nut Zone is not a place that relates in any way to the current presidential campaign. No, it’s found in our backyard during the autumn months.
An enormous black walnut tree hovers over our backyard. During the summer, it provides welcome shade. When fall comes, however, the tree drops tangerine-sized nuts, ready to bean any unsuspecting visitor. You’re sitting, casually trying to enjoy the last few rays of sunshine before the cold fronts move in — then suddenly the wind ruffles the tree branches, and the bombardment begins. Nuts drop to the ground, clanging off lawn furniture and bouncing off flagstones, startling the unwary, and you realize that but for good fortune they might dent your noggin and leave you dazed and spreadeagled on the cooling ground.
Well, maybe it is a bit like the presidential campaign, now that you mention it.
We’ve had a few days where the overnight temperatures have dropped into the 40s. The leaves on the trees at Schiller Park are just starting to turn, and the mums are in their full glory. This morning the air was crisp, and it felt invigorating to take some deep breaths as I walked around the park.
If you don’t feel stimulated by autumn in the Midwest, there’s something wrong with you. It’s the best season of the year.
The gourds are stacked in front of our house to celebrate the autumn season. I’m going to go to a sports bar today with UJ to watch the Browns play the Steelers, and I’m hoping that these bright orange colors might actually presage a Browns victory — for once!
Yikes. It was raw, wet and blustery this morning — so cold that I had to wear a coat over my Vassar hoodie, so cold that even the usually talkative jogging pairs were quiet and a bit shriveled in the wind, so cold that the sky looked bleak and angry and a little crack of blue framed with morning sun stood out sharply before being swallowed by the roiling clouds.
It’s autumn. That means it’s time for you to once again reflect upon the many valuable things you learned during high school science class, in that smelly room with the stone-stopped tables and the Bunsen burner devices and the sinks with the odd curved faucets. In addition to dissecting frogs and enduring that first whiff of formaldehyde, a smell that you will dread for the rest of your life, you learned about photosynthesis, and why leaves change color during the autumn.
Photosynthesis is the process by which our arboreal friends take water and carbon dioxide and convert them into oxygen and glucose. The leaves have chlorophyll, a substance that is the crucial agent in the photosynthesis process and uses the power of sunshine to complete the chemical change that is essential to life on our planet. You learned that chlorophyll is a deep, rich green, and during the height of spring and summer, when the chlorophyll is hard at work, its presence masks the other colors found in the leaves.
But when autumn comes, and winter approaches, and the supply of water and sunshine will decline, the chlorophyll decides that it’s time to take a vacation. It leaves the leaves, and when it does the other hidden colors emerge — like the bright reds that you see in sugar maple leaves. And sometimes you can see this process in action. It’s the sort of thing your high school science teacher would enjoy.