Two young women were looking at the new clothing arrivals at our local department store. “I love this,” the first said to her friend, as she held up a delicately crocheted cardigan. The soft burgundy yarn complemented the herringbone wool trousers hanging nearby. She sighed, “Actually, I love fall.”
I was digging through a clearance bin when I overheard this. I thought, “Yes. Absolutely.”
The stimulation of the changing of seasons goes back to early childhood memories: the red, yellow, orange, and brown leaves floating from the sky and crunching underfoot; the smell of wooden pencils and squish of pink erasers as school became the daily routine. It was comforting, and predictable, and beautiful.
Our first party of the school year would be the Halloween party. It was so exciting to think about what costumes to wear (scary? funny? pretty?), what treats we would eat, and whether anyone would be bold enough to challenge the costume “guidelines.” As a kid, it was so unbelievably cool that school would be a fun day, all day. The day had a slightly different connotation when I became a teacher!
The cool, pleasant weather of fall meant heading straight outside after school. Playing hide-and-seek, riding bikes, throwing the football, all were comfortable in the crisp air. The shorter days meant that dusk came sooner. On weekends, we played Ghost in the Graveyard or flashlight tag.
Then, there was the sky. Some days, it would be a sparkly cornflower blue, with cloud wisps of white, like half-hearted brush strokes. Other days, the cumulonimbus cloud giants, in purples, blues, grays, would darken the horizon, their apparent heft defying gravity.
Sure, there were those warm days, on occasion, that brought back memories of languid summer; but, mostly, we wore sweaters and socks by the end of September.
Today, it was 86°. The first calendar day of fall. The forecast for the next ten days is much the same. Chicago hit 94°. There is no rain in sight. I am wearing shorts, a tank and flip-flops. The bird bath and planters need water twice a day.
The weather announcer confirmed that the storm systems in the Atlantic are causing our weather to stall and heat up.
The hurricanes have brought horrific water and wind in the South. Satellite images show that Greenland is melting. Neil DeGrasse Tyson has told us that it may already be too late to recover from climate change.
Yesterday, the Governor General of Antigua and Barbuda addressed a committee of the United Nations, reminding the world that his country is experiencing the brutal consequences of a warming climate; and, as a small island, has no ability to affect or adapt to that change without the world’s help.
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With temperatures like this, you might think that the leaves won’t change color; but, they have already started, and some have fallen. What gives?
It isn’t just temperature that causes leaves to change color. In fact, it isn’t a color “change,” per se, but the lack of chlorophyll that allows us to see the reds, oranges, yellows, and browns. How bright the leaf colors appear, and how soon the leaves fall, may be affected by temperature and water availability; but, the predominate factor in causing plants to stop chlorophyll production is the change in light. Our deciduous trees have adapted to winter by, essentially, hibernating.
The shorter days of fall (actually, the longer nights) trigger the halt in production of chlorophyll. So far, humans haven’t been able to change the length of days and nights here on Earth; so, we will continue to have fall. It just may not be the fall that we remember.
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This is an aside from today’s post; but, I just listened to an interview on NPR with poet Chris Harris. His new book is something special. It comes out September 26 and you can preorder it, like I did. He calls it nonsense for mischievous kids and immature adults.
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