We humans can be divided up in many ways and among them is how we react to the different seasons. Some lament the passing of warm weather while others relish change. I fall in the latter category.
Summer can feel endless here in Central California, and as the nights cool and the daytime heat finally fades, I monitor the changes with quiet enthusiasm. Truth be told, I like fall more than most.
Autumn does not generate that much affection among my friends. They admit to being glad that the heat of summer is over but otherwise see this season as a dull time of fading light and biological shutting down.
By now, we are all noticing how much less daylight each day brings us. A month has passed since we passed the moment when each twenty-four hours sees equal daylight and dark, and now darkness dominates the clock.
But there is more to this change than a mere reduction of sunlight hours. At the same time, the angle of the sun is shifting. Each day the sun moves across the sky a bit further to the south, and each day lengthens the autumn shadows on the land.
Living as I do in Three Rivers, surrounded by canyons and mountains, I mark this shift with pleasure. High summer here drenches the landscape in bright overhead light; fall light plays out entirely differently.
Anyone who takes landscape photographs knows the difference. An old rule of outdoors photography suggests that most good photos are taken close to either dawn or dusk; that is when the light is “interesting.” Handsome morning and evening shadows – with all the beauty they bring – now last for hours on the hills I watch from my house.
Much of the biological world outside is shutting down as well. Most of the native plants that grace our foothills lands have long since drifted into near dormancy. The season of growth and fruiting ended months ago. Now, the trees and shrubs that clothe the Sierra, and the animals that rely on them for sustenance, simply abide –waiting for winter and the return of moisture.
Others lament this quiet fading of nature’s exuberance, but I find it soothing. Perhaps that feeling develops naturally out of a life spent in the semi-arid West. Every cycle needs a quiet period to make it complete.
Artists and musicians have long known this. Good images require both light and dark. Music must vary in pace and intensity. Beauty requires contrast.
So, if you will, we are now in the quiet part of nature’s annual song. The quiet conveys not sadness but rather resting and preparation for the coming drama of winter and spring. In classical music, a slow adagio movement usually precedes an exciting allegro. Such is also the way of nature.
And that’s why I’m enjoying the quiet beauty of autumn here in Tulare County. I trust that you are too. Now, if only it would rain.
© Wm. Tweed