I can feel it in the air. The shift from summer to autumn is beginning. While it is just nearing the end of August and the temperatures here in the Pacific Northwest are still quite warm, there is a definite change in the air. The sun is coming up later and going down earlier; we have already lost two hours of daylight since summer solstice. The sun has also shifted in the sky. As I go for my morning walk, I can discern its slow track to the south. And the air no longer has the heavy, hot sting of high summer. The warmth is softer now.
The songbirds of spring and early summer are no longer singing. The robins and warblers and sparrows and finches are now quiet. The jays of course are still raucous, that never changes. And the red-tailed hawks are still in the vicinity, teaching their fledglings to hunt. The last of the hummingbirds has moved on. While some do overwinter in the city, the winter climate is just to harsh here for them to stay. The crows are coming back. I’m hearing them now in the morning. Some people don’t like crows, but I’ve always found them to be fascinating. Perhaps it is due in part to my upbringing in the Southwest where the Native Americans hold these beautiful birds in high regard.
The deer are changing too. This year’s fawn is getting bigger and his spots are starting to fade. He (I like to think of the fawn as an him) is still dependent on his mother for protection, but she leaves him near the cabin while she goes about her daily business. I’d like to think she understands that he is safe with us; that the crazy woman who baby-talks to them is not a threat. There is a young buck too that hangs around the property. His antlers are just beginning to poke through. At times he runs pell mell through the trees. There doesn’t seem to be anything after him. I believe it’s just his hormones raging through his body and he just gets a case of the stupids. He is starting to be seen with the doe and fawn. Perhaps he is laying the groundwork now for reproductive access in a couple of months.
The trees are changing, but it is very subtle. The bright green of late spring has been replaced by a very dark green with a slight brownish tinge. Some leaves are even changing color, but that could be as much from drought stress as seasonal shift. The many grass fields have been mowed and the hay either baled or rolled to provide feed in the winter. Those fields that haven’t been harvested are shaded in red with the grass seed heads. The thistle have come out and are going to seed also. Bees can be seen, with their legs covered in pollen, gathering the sticky yellow substance to take back to the hives. Apples are heavy on the branches, blushing pink now as they ripen. My tomatoes are getting bigger, and some are shifting from green to a more yellow hue. Blackberries are also coming on. They aren’t necessarily one of my favorite plants, but the fruit makes for a delicious liqueur sauce.
In years past, I’ve dreaded the coming of fall, but for some reason this year is a little different. Don’t get me wrong, I still do not like the shortening days, but I don’t feel that weight as much this year. It is perhaps due to being in our new home; a cabin in the woods. I’m looking forward to getting pumpkins and displaying them on the porch. I’m looking forward to the winter season and stringing my chile pepper lights along the porch eaves. While very unlikely, I’m hoping to be able to display luminarias or firelitos; a very New Mexican tradition.