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.

7 thoughts on “The Joy of Autumn

  1. I can tell by this blog and others that, like me, birds mean a lot to you. I get teased often by my family for it. My sister in law hates their chatter while I love it. It brings back memories of sitting with my grandmother on her porch. Her porch was completely enclosed with honeysuckle vine and the birds loved it. They would sit in that vine and chatter, not sing. It was a living thing that sounded like it would take flight at any minute. I must have been only about five years old but the memory is a vivid, cherished one.

    • Birds are hugely important to me, you are right. Your memory of that vine and the chattering is wonderful. I met someone who dosen’t like bird chatter, and I really was taken aback–it was a completely foreign idea to me. Like meeting people who don’t like trees–we have a lot of them here, too. Because trees “are messy.” Like people aren’t.

  2. I grew up in New England and always loved the big piles of leaves we raked up to jump in and later have a great bonfire. Fall was always my absolute favorite time of year. It meant gathering books and craft supplies for a cozy winter. I was blissful. Now I live in Florida and fall means venturing outdoors, planting a few vegies, welcoming the birds back, and the cassia coming into full bloom. It’s all good. And I don’t have to shovel snow!

  3. Some of those owls might be the ones that migrate on flight path over our house; the Audubon spotting tower nearby counts thousands of raptors flying over every year.

    • I’d love to be on a count one year. Cape May, New Jersey is another counting place. I think our owls aren’t big travelers; they probably are in the woods up in Flag and come down when it starts to snow there.

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