Greg Peck: Are you ready for fall?
Today, when I let our dog, Molly, outside in the predawn darkness, I looked up and noticed the constellation Orion peaking above the large maple next door in the southeastern sky. It reminded me that on crisp, cool mornings of autumn, that’s where I can find this distinctive cluster of stars.
On our walks around Janesville, my wife and I have seen leaves falling. Perhaps these trees have been stressed by the lack of rain in recent weeks. Or perhaps most are just starting their seasonal foliage drops. I’ve also seen sparrows flocking up. It’s a phenomena I often notice this time of year, after the birds have raised their summer broods.
Cheryl and I drove Sunday to our Wisconsin River property near Muscoda. I picked up fallen branches as Cheryl started mowing. Then I cleaned out the birdhouses, making sure to rap on each one in case a bird might still be inside. None flew away, so I opened the doors and cleaned out the spent nests to make way for next spring’s nesting season. I was surprised to find a mouse hiding behind one nest. I rousted him out, and the little rodent quickly scampered up a large white pine, out of harm’s way. I wondered if he had planned to spend winter in the cozy confines of that birdhouse.
One walnut tree in our neighborhood has lost many leaves, and many of those that remain have turned yellow. Our lot in Muscoda has about eight walnut trees, and these often are the first to drop their leaves, so I was expecting many to be gone. I was surprised, then, to see few signs of yellow leaves. About half the large walnuts still clung to sagging branches.
At one point, however, a gentle breeze picked up, and a cascade of leaves tumbled from the sky.
The fall equinox reaches the Northern Hemisphere at 10:29 p.m. Eastern Standard Time Monday, Sept. 22, marking the official start of fall and making Sept. 23 the first full day of autumn. Monday, however, marked the meteorological start of fall, and today kids returned to school. Forecasters expect a hot, humid day Thursday with a high of perhaps 90—a rarity during our mild summer. I guess that forecast means it’s too soon to pull our window air conditioners.
It’s not, however, too soon to spot the first signs of seasonal change.