Tuesday, September 06, 2005

September 6, 2005

The season is turning. Dog and I took a long walk in the woods yesterday. The weather this long holiday weekend could not have been any better. As far as weather goes, this weekend was perfect. Although it's not fall yet, during the walk I saw signs that at least point to the arrival of late summer or even almost autumn. The most noticeable to me was the color of green that surrounded me. It's no longer the bright green of spring or even the deep rich green of mid-summer. It's starting to take on a faded shade.

Some leaves are even changing color, though I don't think it's related to autumn's color change. The change is most noticeable in the understory or growth low to the forest floor. The poison ivy leaves are turning yellow. Some other lower growth is also turning yellow. I think this is mostly on growth that has a shallow root system. It hasn't rained for a week or so, and I think that's enough to move those plants to drop their leaves.

Some trees that have been damaged by insects or disease or perhaps just those with poor roots or soil are also starting to turn color, though their leaves are mostly turning brown. Usually, with those trees, it's not the entire tree's leaves that are turning, just the lower leaves. It simply might be that the combination of shorter days and the lessened sunlight that these lower leaves get is enough now to make them start to turn color. I tried to look at the leaves that littered the path in front of me; most were from tulip poplars.

Other signs of near autumn are around too. The wind, mostly from a southerly direction in summer, is starting to have a more northerly component to it. North wind comes down from Canada, bringing cooler and drier weather with it. In the summer, warm and humid tropical winds from the south dominates.

Bird migration is starting to pick up. I saw grackles, starlings and blackbirds starting to group together or "stage" for the trip south. Hawks, especially broad-winged hawks, are starting to move, as are swallows and monarch butterflies. The sound of the cicadas, deafening in mid-summer, is starting to diminish. At least I can now hold a conversation outside without raising my voice. The lightning bugs are fewer as well. Yesterday I saw a group of robins floating through the upper story of leaves--more than I've seen in one place since spring. They are on the move now, as well.

Humans like to quantify things and have definitive starts and stops to the seasons. Logically, to us it makes sense to say that autumn begins on the day when the days and nights are equal in length--the autumn equinox. But the rythmns of the forest do not follow human sensibilities. For the trees in the forest, each day is a progression. In a way, each day is its own season, with its own changes that only the forest knows.

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