The Joy of Autumn

new-england-fall-colors-photo-by-chrisbastian44-thumb-300x200-14979When I lived in New England, autumn meant leaf changes, cold nights, wearing scarves and coats after a few weeks of lighter clothing. The leaves were so beautiful. All the trees didn’t turn at the same time, so you’d look from one tree to the next, hoping for one more day of good color. Because after the leaves, it was windy, rainy and dark.

Autumn in Phoenix is so completely different. You come out of your summer protective shell. You see people on the street again. But here are my favorite surprises of autumn in Phoenix:

1. The sky turns into a giant dark blue bowl over your head. It’s the angle of the sun and the wind that pushes the pollution away for a while.

2. The migrating birds arrive, and suddenly, there is bird song all day long, from dawn to dusk. Sometimes birds mark their territory by singing, and the hedges and orange trees are filled with birds. Given that half the bird species in the world don’t sing, so this is special.

3. The owl is back. I don’t know where the Great Horned Owl goes in the

Great Horned Owl at Sonoran Desert Museum  © Walt Thomas

Great Horned Owl at Sonoran Desert Museum © Walt Thomas

summer, but every fall, it’s back, with it’s huge silent wingspan and deep hoots in the evening.

4. The oranges, lemons and grapefruit start to grow again. They stop growing in the summer. Now they are heading toward ripening. We won’t have any lemons this year, the three-day frost last year killed them all (we usually get about 300 a year). But we do have 16 grapefruits, nice big ones.

5. I can leave CDs and teaching supplies in the car again. In the summer, CDs warp, plastic melts, paper deteriorates in the car. It’s nice not to have to empty the car into the office every night.

Fall is here and life is good. And the birds are coming in, including the hummingbirds.

-Quinn McDonald is a writer and naturalist who loves autumn in Phoenix.