When I awoke this morning—which, at almost 7:00 a.m., was far later than usual—I could tell it was quite chilly outside. Inside the house, it was toasty, quite a bit warmer than usual for the cool Fall mornings we’ve been having lately. The heat kicks on only when the outdoor temperatures are cold enough to trigger the furnace.
As I closed the bedroom door behind me, I looked west through the three large floor-to-ceiling windows in the living room to see the sky was clear blue and the normally dark grey roof of the house behind mine was white with frost. Brown and yellow and purple and orange leaves from the crepe myrtles at the back fence littered the lawn. The leaves of the small banana trees, given to me by a neighbor, show signs of succumbing to the cold, their firm upright leaves beginning their metamorphosis from crisp green daggers into yellow blankets enveloping shivering brown trunks.
The Bradford pear trees on the north side of the house have begun their transformation, the leaves on the higher branches turning red and orange and brown. The appearance of the transforming leaves mimics long-worn but well-polished leather shoes, their sheen showing cracks and brittleness beneath the shiny surface. The leaves that were first to change have begun to go to purple and fall to the ground, signaling the real onset of the season.
Most of the long, narrow, feathery leaves of the big Arizona ash in the front yard have long since turned pale yellow. A good three-quarters of them have fallen, most of them into the street to join the chestnut-brown oak leaves that fell en mass from trees next door and across the street. Eventually, all the leaves will find their way to the ground, leaving the trees bare.
Though I love to see trees flush with fresh green leaves, the emptiness of winter branches remind me that there’s another world that shadows summer. The lushness of green leaves and the cool shade they provide from a sky awash in blinding brilliance is in direct opposition to stark bare branches that invite every piercing ray of feeble sunlight to warm a seed on the ground below. In a month, more or less, the trees will be completely bare and the last remnants of green will have washed from the grass. Weeds will have temporarily lost their bid to envelope bare ground and crowd out the turf grass.
There was a time when I could accurately forecast just when all the leaves would have fallen, but I can no longer do more than hazard a guess. Temperatures in late November should never rise above 75 degrees, but they have of late and they will again. Then they will plunge to far more normal ranges, then perhaps will fall even more.
Then, we’ll see what this new climate has in store for us, at least in the short run.