Autumn, Day by Day

The fall foliage is about a week behind its average schedule this year, right in step with the late arrival of the chilly weather. As I sit on my porch today, it feels like late May: the air is pleasantly humid and 76 degrees. A perfect breeze is steadily blowing, sometimes with enough force that you could almost call it a gust. A cyclist rides by in a sleeveless shirt. I’m drinking iced coffee.

But this sudden burst of warmth is unexpected—yesterday, I was wearing gloves. It was a sunless 48 degrees and spitting rain. The weather has just begun to lean into its quintessential fall habits over the past ten days or so. The sun has been elusive, and evening patio drinkers have been met with a chill too strong to sit still. The leaves have gotten the memo too; here in the urban heat bubble at least, we’re still weeks away from the heart of fall color, but early-changers like locust trees and maples are reaching the peak of their performance.

Today, too, was supposed to be rainy and not quite so warm, but the weather surprised us. If I closed my eyes right now, I could believe it was high summer. But opening them reveals a different story: the ash leaves are dressed in their plum purple; the squirrels are scurrying around with much to do; garden mums shine brightly in the neighbors’ yards; the very tips of the gingko leaves look like they’ve been delicately dipped in yellow paint.

Tomorrow, it’s back to the cloudy days and cooler temperatures. We want so badly to be able to settle into familiar patterns, to predict with precision the changing of the seasons, to plan fall weekend getaways around the exact weekend when the woods reach their most spectacular color. But, more often than not, nature has other plans. All we can do is sit back and pay attention.

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