Friday, September 26, 2008
Sloughing into the Fall
Being a bit of a calendar geek I get ridiculously annoyed every three months about the change of the seasons. It's great that tv weather folk make note of the changes, sure, and Google puts up cool graphics on their banner and Yahoo does too but not they're very cool at all, in an age when so many people suffer from life-threatening vitamin D deficiency in America because the average person doesn't get outside enough to soak up the cancer-defeating and bone-building sunshine we all need. So yeah, noticing the equinoxes and solstices is good because it reminds cubicle and mall dwellers that there is an actual planet and solar system out there; gives them a little science break. However.
Anyone who is paying attention will notice a faint wind in the tree tops, beginning oh, about mid-August. The summer annuals, the sunflowers and pumpkins, the marigolds are just beginning to peak out. The day-length sensitive perennials are showing barely perceptible signs of thinking about calling it quits for the winter. This, then, is the beginning of autumn, the time when plants begin the slow descent into the darker days of winter by hastening to ripen their last seeds and fruits, slowing the production of succulent leaves, beginning the process of hardening tender stems.
By the time the equinox rolls around, the change in day length and the angle of the sun is so obvious even the most condo-bound urbanite will have noticed and think "Sproing! Autumn is here". But I think the equinox could be called the quintessence of autumn better than the beginning of it. The change of seasons, like so many processes in the natural world, can be subtle up to a point then it whacks you over the head. Here in southern California it's extra subtle and some people believe we Have No Seasons. Of course that is impossible since the seasons are defined by the change in day length due to the tilt of the earth's axis relative to its orbit around the sun. Plants and animals all over the world have adapted to the seasonal changes in the sun's postion as relates to their locale, and their life cycles serve as further indicators, in addition to the weather person, of the state of the orbit in their locale.
Anyway, the equinox occurred a few days ago. Whoopee. It's still beautifully warm here, clear and balmy but with a trace more bite in the night air. This grey bird grasshopper molt seemed to be emulating us kicked back in a bowered reclining lounge chair enjoying the dance of the days uninformed by Hallmark's version of the celestial pirouette. Its ex-owner is off in the shrubbery there, eating more leaves and maturing and seeking a mate with a season-driven passion to complete the cycle and sequester eggs in the soil well before the dead of winter one day in December.