It begins with a carpet of yellow across the forest floor, then the autumn colors soon flow into groves of aspens. The days are getting shorter and the mornings colder. A sense of urgency sets in—a moment of refocusing on all the summer tasks that had been scheduled for completion. The laundry list of home projects (created in early April) is revisited with the realization that autumn is around the corner. I live in the high Sierra so it’s time for gathering firewood and kindling, storing patio/lawn furniture, turning off sprinklers, winterizing pipes, closing vents, checking the cars’ snow tires, etc. The list isn’t daunting, and I rather enjoy the tasks at hand, but it does require some time and attention in order to complete everything before the first snowflake falls.
The neighboring wildlife is in full preparation mode and they never get behind schedule with seasonal routines. Squirrels and chipmunks wobble around with cheeks and stomachs looking like they’re about to explode. Out in the forest, pine cone fragments are scattered across tree stumps where pine nuts have been harvested, and the bounties already carried away somewhere safe for the winter (hopefully not in my stack of firewood). Logs shredded by huge claws are evidence of bears foraging for grubs, eating as much as possible before the ground is covered with snow. As for our friendly arachnids and insects, there’s an uptick in household spiders looking for shelter, and mosquitos, gnats, and ants are now long gone.
We humans, on the other hand, often wait until the waning days of summer to complete certain projects (yes, I speak for myself) or completely blow them off until next summer (the easy way out). Add these seasonal chores to a few frantic too-many-work-hours-weeks, can sometimes result in heightened pressure and anxiety. And for some, bouts of depression can creep in as daylight hours dwindle.
Stop. Take a break. Get outside and enjoy some time outdoors.
Weekend crowds begin to shrink as the summer ends, kids are back in school, and roads and trails into hills and mountains are less congested. It’s a perfect time for planning a special trip or morning hike; breath in the cooler morning air and enjoy the sound of rustling leaves blowing in the wind.
For those who have a thirst for something more adventurous, kick it up a notch and do something a bit more challenging. A couple of years ago, a friend of mine fulfilled a bucket list goal, and sailed the entire shoreline of Lake Tahoe on a paddle board during the autumn season. She hit some rough weather and experienced her share of challenges, but completed the journey and had some excellent stories and photographs of the venture. I’m sure it’s a trip she’ll always remember. If weather permits, I’ll be hiking Mount Whitney the second week of October this year. It could be the last hike of the season—or maybe not.
My advice as the days grow shorter and cooler, is strike a balance. Knock off the “need to do’s” one by one but make sure to spend some time enjoying these fantastic autumn days. Take a hike in the woods or even a quick walk around the block. If you happen to live in the city, enjoy a brisk jaunt in the park. Bottom line: get outside and welcome the change of season.
“But when fall comes, kicking summer out on its treacherous ass as it always does one day sometime after the midpoint of September, it stays awhile like an old friend that you have missed. It settles in the way an old friend will settle into your favorite chair and take out his pipe and light it and then fill the afternoon with stories of places he has been and things he has done since last he saw you.”
― Stephen King, ‘Salem’s Lot