According to the calendar, autumn officially began only 5 days ago, yet the change in the temperatures and the look of the landscape could not present a more dramatic indication that we are transitioning from summer into fall. Of course this shift likely seems all the more obvious having returned this week from a trip to visit our daughter in Florida, where daytime highs were near 100 with stifling humidity. Back in Maine, frost warning the past couple of nights have us setting a fire in the wood stove just to take the chill off. Though slightly cooler than average for this time of year, it is not unusual this time of year to have to throw on a light jacket or fleece when I take the dog out for her morning/evening constitutional. It is part of the routine when you live in a place that celebrates the diversity of the four distinct seasons, five if you count mud season. In fact, I have come to look forward to the changes that each new season brings.
The arrival of Autumn brings a number of changes to our little community by the lake. Most of the summer people have pulled their docks, winterized their boats, and headed back into town or to their primary residences in Massachusetts, New York, and the like. Some eventually make their way south to Florida or the Carolinas with the flocks of snowbirds who have tired of the demands Maine winters can make on its year round residents. As the human population decreases, the loons who usually keep to their own small family groups during the busy summer months begin to “raft up” with a dozen or more of the magnificent water birds forming flotillas as they prepare to head east to winter in the warmer ocean waters near the coast. The eagles and great blue herons prepare for a quiet winter on the lake while the Canadian geese and other migratory birds begin their journey south to warmer climes. Countless squirrels and chipmunks are busy hiding the plentiful acorns as they fall to the ground.
But the real magic of autumn in Maine is in the deciduous trees and shrubs, or more accurately in the changing of the color of their leaves. Tourist flock to the state to witness first hand the magnificent display of millions of trees and shrubs when their leaves are no longer primarily green, but various shades of red, yellow, orange and brown. My own favorite is the Sugar Maple whose leaves become a bright, almost florescent, orange as the temperatures fall heading into October. But it’s not just the cooler temperatures that determine the intensity and length of leaf peeping season. It turns out that sunlight and moisture also play an important role and an early or extended frost can mean a premature end to the colorful foliage. Heavy rain and wind can cause leaves to fall earlier than expected. All these factors combine to insure that every year the display will be unique in its quality and length. And in a way, that makes each experience all the more special. I feel blessed to be able to discover anew this beautiful event of nature each autumn.