If you have stepped into a store lately, you have probably noticed the encroaching fall-themed decorations. The appearance of reds and oranges, pumpkins and apples, and an assortment of ghosts and other spooky-themed decor brings with it a set of differing opinions about the timing. When mid-August arrives, some people are already clamoring for cozy fall weather, while others are trying to hold tight to the last days of summer for as long as possible.
I am someone who would like to continue celebrating summer. I am very content with the weather and feel of late August, especially this year. It’s cooler at night, the days are still warm enough to comfortably tromp around outside, and there finally seems to be some rain making an appearance.
I am also not much of a decorator. A minimalist at heart, just about every decoration I own, for any season or holiday, was a hand-me-down or gift from another. However, growing up, it was also easy to tell what was coming based on my grandmother’s decorating. As a kid, I went to my grandparents every day after school, and my grandmother was on the other end of the spectrum when it came to decorations. She has an ever-growing stockpile of decorations for her house and her lawn. Each season and holiday brings a new set of bits and bobs transforming the feel of each space in the house.
However, if I look around me, past my own desire for a little bit more time with summer, I see nature is gearing up for autumn, just like so many people I know. The plants are starting to decorate and the cooler nights are driving animals to think about their fall plans.
Nature has its own way of decorating, and frequently the decorations many people make or buy from the store reflect what is happening outside. The colors mirror the changing plants and weather, and the featured animals on pot holders, wall hangings and knickknacks tend to follow what is notable or new in nature that season.
Autumn is draped in red, oranges and yellows. Apples and pumpkins ripen, finding their way into both our stomachs and our decorating choices. Moving into October, bats and other nocturnal animals help us decorate for Halloween, even as they are getting ready for winter.
Winter is often more finicky. Sometimes it is covered in soft fluffy whites, other times the ice glazes over each twig and branch. Somewhat less appealing is the muddy, slushy gray that covers the more populated areas during winter. White furred and feathered animals show up in snow globes and greenery take the place of the colorful autumn hues.
Spring is made of color pops of purple, yellow and pink. Vibrant greens spring up from the ground and appear as plant buds. Baby animals are more prevalent, especially the fuzzy ones, and birds are singing, building nests and laying eggs.
Summer is sunshine, lakes, honeybees and butterflies. Around here, summer is also poison ivy, mosquitoes and all of the other buzzing insects. There are fresh fruits and vegetables growing in the garden and aquatic invertebrates erupting in numbers in the ponds.
In late August, the seasons are slowly changing, step by step, from summer into fall. I look around and see just as many signs of this change in nature as I do on a store shelf.
As I drive home, some trees and shrubs are already starting to change color. Every evening I hear increasingly large groups of geese fly over and watch them land in Chautauqua Lake. They are gathering in larger numbers along connecting waterways as well. Nights are getting significantly cooler, even as the days stay warm. The apples on the apple tree next to the Nature Center have streaks of red on them, and squirrels and chipmunks are beginning to collect food to prepare for colder months ahead.
However, even with all of this, the bees and butterflies are still active, drinking nectar and moving pollen. The mosquitoes and flies are definitely still around for a bit longer and there will continue to be yellows, purples and pinks even into the fall. Nothing changes overnight, but the transitions can be just as interesting. Every day gets to be a little different.
When I truly think about it, I find that I have, somewhat reluctantly, accepted the fact that Halloween and fall decorations have made their way to the store shelves. Personally, I’ll hold on to summer for a little longer, but I’m happy to let nature lead the way and I will simply follow.
Audubon Community Nature Center builds and nurtures connections between people and nature. ACNC is located just east of Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. The trails are open from dawn to dusk as is Liberty, the Bald Eagle and other birds of prey. The Nature Center is open from 10 a.m. until 4:30 p.m. daily except Sunday when it opens at 1 p.m. More information can be found online at auduboncnc.org or by calling (716) 569-2345.