Back East, you know it’s fall when the leaves turn red and yellow and the nights get nippy. Phoenix has a fall season, too. It’s not always summer here. It’s just a bit more subtle than in other places.
Here’s how you know it’s finally fall in Phoenix:
1. The lines at movie theaters, restaurants and plays develop and get longer. It’s a sure sign the snowbirds are back. Like migrating birds, snowbirds show up in the fall and fill up the parking lots and theater seats. I love ‘em. It may not swell the tax records, but it helps us keep afloat from a retail standpoint. It would be nice if they followed our traffic rules. That thing about just stopping in the middle of the street when you hear a siren is weird.
2. The birds come back. In the summer we have pigeons and grackles, maybe a gila woodpecker and quail. But once you get into late October, the rising sun is accompanied by the chatter of migrating songbirds who stay. We are on the other end of the migration trail, and have the hawks, grosbeaks, and cardinals to prove it.
3. The citrus ripens. All summer long, the citrus was green and small. Now it starts to grow, then lighten. Around October it turns lighter green, and you can distinguish the fruit from the leaves. The fruit then turn yellow, bottom to top. Then it begins to smell heavenly and it’s ready to eat around mid-December.
4. The RVs come back. People who own RVs often also own land in Flagstaff or Prescott. North of Phoenix where the elevation gets above 4,000 feet it is also much cooler. People haul their RVs to parks or their cabins and have a great cool place for the summer. In the fall, when it gets too cold, they come back. In droves. It’s hard to hide a bus-size RV behind a fence. But people do.
5. It’s time to plant. Cooler fall weather allows for planting of trees, flowers and aloes–plants you cannot plant in the summer because it’s just too hot. Pansies thrive here in the winter, as do sunflowers. Tomatoes don’t work in the fall, the nights are too cool, but there are other fruits and vegetables that do fine–I’ve grown peas and salad greens all winter long.
Not all of Arizona is a desert. Flagstaff gets about 120 inches of snow every winter, they’ve already had the first freeze. Prescott housed the frontier capitol and has fabulous fall foliage and festivals. Payson is close enough to the Mogollan ridge to benefit from higher elevation and cool fall temperatures. Welcome to Phoenix–come visit and enjoy your winter.
–Quinn McDonald is a writer, artist, naturalist and creativity coach.