Early October welcomes the mini season of Cold Dew. This season runs from October 8 until October 22. During this time the nights are getting progressively colder and the days are getting shorter. Frost can be expected in the mornings, but it usually disappears with the rising sun. Below is a haiku by Buson that seems to capture this time of year.
Miles of frost – On the lake The moon’s my own. -Buson
The mini seasons were originally created by the ancient Chinese and then adapted by the Japanese in 1685. (1) When the Japanese adapted the calendar, they added the micro-seasons. The micro-seasons of this season include:
- The Geese Arrive (Oct 8-Oct 12)
- The Chrysanthemum Flowers (Oct 13- Oct 17)
- The Grasshopper Sings (Oct 18 – Oct 22)
This is perhaps where my location in New England and the Japanese climate begin to differ. For us, the geese have begun their migration south. So instead of geese arriving, we have geese leaving.
An interesting event that happens to birds just prior to migration is molting. Molting is the process where a bird changes out their damaged feathers for new feathers. Because feathers are similar in construction to human hair or nails, meaning that they are built of the protein keratin and not living tissue, they are unable to repair themselves. Molting takes a lot of energy so some birds “schedule” this process in between the breeding and migration seasons.
Many birds will take on a completely different appearance after the fall molting. An example of this is the male goldfinch who will shed their bright yellow feathers and replace them with duller olive color feathers.
The landscape is also changing at this time. As the days get shorter and the temperature a little colder, the trees stop making food in preparation for winter. The scientist at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry explains that leaves change color because, “The chlorophyll breaks down, the green color disappears, and the yellow to orange colors become visible and give the leaves part of their fall splendor.”(2) The are many variables that contribute to the intensity of the color of the leaves including rainfall, the first frost, and overall temperatures.
Right now, in northern Vermont, we are entering the moderate/peak foliage. This means that most of the trees are changing and there is the greatest amount of color visible on the landscape. The tourist activity that is brought into the State because of the foliage is so vital for the economy that there is even a webpage that will give you updated reports or where to find the best color.
Finally, as I contemplate the arrival of this new mini season and recognize all the changes that are happening, I am drawn to the poem “Fall, leaves, fall” by Emily Brontë (1818-1848).
Fall, leaves, fall by Emily Brontë
Fall, leaves, fall; die, flowers, away; Lengthen night and shorten day; Every leaf speaks bliss to me Fluttering from the autumn tree. I shall smile when wreaths of snow Blossom where the rose should grow; I shall sing when night’s decay Ushers in a drearier day.
The beginning of autumn is such a wonderful time to observe the many changes that are happening around us. It is also that time where we intentionally prepare for the upcoming months of cold and hibernation. If you have time this week, go outside and see what is changing around you. Feel free to share your observations below.