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John Andersen: Reflections in fall

John Andersen: Reflections in fall

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I was sitting in the sun last week soaking in the fall weather. The day was around 80 degrees but the wind from the south was pretty strong, It was a beautiful fall day, probably the last we will have. It occurred to me that today is my Brother David and my Sister Nancy’s birthday. David was a child of the written word and the artistic hand. He has been gone now for 10 years.

My sister Nancy’s life is blank slate. Nancy lived only until the next day then she was gone. So in their memories I wish them a happy birthday. This day is dedicated to their memories. We move on because we have to, not because we want to.

I had business out in the Town of Lafayette last week. I decided to drive out there by taking County Hwy OO and staying on 30th Ave in Lafayette. The leaves this year have been magnificent. Looking along Dana’s bluff in Lake Hallie and County Highway OO as it crosses 160th Street, all the hills and trees were simply on fire with color. By the time you read this Chippewa County may be past peak in color and the color may be muted.

If you return to your science class you remember that the leaves change color “because as summer fades into fall, the days start getting shorter and there is less sunlight. This is a signal for the leaf to prepare for winter and to stop making chlorophyll. Once this happens, the green color starts to fade and the reds, oranges, and yellows become visible.

Weather is also an important part of the color change. In the fall, the temperatures get colder and there is also more rain and snow. Changes in these weather conditions can play a role in how early the leaves change and how long they keep their beautiful colors.” (From the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration).

This is a great explanation but it fails to answer one question of mine. The younger maple in my yard is the first one in the spring to leaf out and the first one in the fall to change color and drop its leaves. The older maple (by 2 years) leafs out late in the spring and as of this writing has barely turned 25 percent of its leaves any color.

The Willow trees in my yard are even more stubborn. They leaf out late spring and will only turn yellow in late October or mid-November. They have leaves on them until the first howling storm of the late fall-early winter when they are dispersed all over my yard and the neighbors. Yet when the snow melts in the spring they quickly disintegrate into the lawn.

I have a good friend in the Town of Lafayette that blows the leaves from his yard on a daily basis for six weeks. He hates fall, however he has become a self-taught expert on acorns. Last year he informs me that you could not take a step in the yard without walking on acorns. This year he is telling me that there are almost no acorns.

I am sure there are scientific explanations for both my trees not turning at once, the willow trees keeping their leaves and why there is an abundance of acorns one year and not the next. I prefer to believe that trees, like people, are individuals.

One tree species being more individual than others is the ancient Redwoods of California. Standing over 100 feet tall and some being at least 2,000 years old they survived California’s violent and relentless fire season this year. The Old Growth Redwoods have bark almost 2 feet thick. The have developed thick hides as we say.

So in many ways they are fire resistant. Also Redwoods depend on fire to reproduce. The heat opens their seed cones, their seeds are released, the flames clear the earth for their germination. So sometimes fire is a win-win if you belong in the forest.

On July 18 I wrote about the Constellation Orion rising in the dawn of the Eastern Sky. Well now by Midnight Orion is high in the eastern sky. We move on because we have to, not because we want to.


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