Don't you just love the weather lately? After an exceptionally hot summer, the cooler temperatures of autumn can be a welcome relief. There's something comforting about putting on a fuzzy sweatshirt and taking a walk outside when the air is crisp and the world is filled with color.
Don't get me wrong - I love summer and all the warm weather activities. I just get tired of sweating like a blacksmith making horseshoes every day. According to www.weather.com, the summer of 2012 was the third hottest in the continental United States. We were 1/10 of a degree cooler than last summer and only 2/10 of a degree cooler than the hottest summer in 1936 when the Dust Bowl occurred. I guess Caleb Weatherbee, which is a pseudonym for the Farmer's Almanac weather predictors, was correct when he said it would be a hot, dry summer here in the northeast.
The summer was quite dry here in Jamestown. I read on www.wivb.com that we are about 7 inches below normal precipitation levels. I know that I had to frequently water my flowers all summer long and that the lake level is way down. Getting my boat on and off the lift was a challenge this season, but I was finally able to do it on my own. The lack of rain isn't all bad, though. The warm, shallower water was a relief to my nephews when they helped me get my dock out. There have been some years when the water was cold and deep, and that's a shocker when it runs down into your waders.
Fall asters paint the roadside with drops of vibrant color, ushering in the autumn season.
Photo by Susan M. Songster-Weaver
Western New York's green landscape is wonderful to enjoy, especially during the hotter months of the year when many places in the States turn brown, but you can't beat the colors of fall. It is such a joy to drive down Interstate 86 when the trees first start to color. In the hills near Randolph, you can see the reds and oranges of the maples and the yellows of the beech trees while those stubborn oaks hold on to their greens. It's almost like every individual tree is trying to outshine its neighbor, and you can actually see those individuals. Their unique colors separate them from the crowd, and they seem to stand alone, at least until the rain and the wind undress them.
Speaking of colors, some of my favorite wildflowers are fall bloomers. I love seeing the yellows of the golden rod, the pinks of the Joe Pye weed and the mottled white of boneset. But my all-time favorite flower is the aster. Bright purple Asters swaying in the wind along the side of the road make me smile. I'm not sure if they are showy asters or rough-leaved asters or bushy asters or bog asters - there are only 44 different ones listed in my Peterson Field Guide - and it doesn't really matter. I just like them. They stand out, fresh and new, while the greens of summer are dying down, and they send out the message, "Make way for autumn."
Whether we like it or not, the seasons do change. The still heat of summer will be replaced by the cool breezes of fall. Those breezes will grow stronger and colder as the grip of winter sets in, only to be defeated by the gentle, warm winds of spring. Bathing suits and flip-flops will be packed away. Sweatshirts and blue jeans will fill your closet only to be outdone with downy jackets and snow boots. And then, when you've had your fill of the white stuff, you will be ready for your shorts and T-shirts again. The cycle is as old as the Earth is itself and always something you can depend on. There's no use in fighting it, so grab a sweatshirt and take a walk. Make way for autumn, and enjoy the crisp air and colors while you can.
Susan M. Songster-Weaver is retired teacher, nature lover and longtime CWC volunteer and supporter. The Chautauqua Watershed Conservancy is a local nonprofit organization that is dedicated to preserving and enhancing the water quality, scenic beauty, and ecological health of the lakes, streams, wetlands and watersheds of the Chautauqua region. On Saturday, Oct. 6, the CWC will be holding a paddling tour of Cassadaga Lakes as well as the landscaping workshop "Creating Habitat: Map My Yard." For more information or to register, visit www.chautauquawatershed.org or call 664-2166.