The Sassy Sandpiper: Awaiting Equinox
The Sassy Sandpiper dreams of that understated Florida season – autumn.
By M.R. Wilson, TB Reporter
Autumn officially arrives in the Northern Hemisphere at 10:21 a.m. local time Thursday (Sept. 22). Our friends Down Under welcome spring.
We Floridians recognize our autumn: no golden foliage, no frost on the pumpkin. We notice the days growing shorter, shadows changing, a slight cooling trend, a tad less humidity. Our bald cypress trees go brown.
According to journalist Jeff Klinkenberg, we don’t have autumn in Florida. We have fall, “…a time of celebration…We have survived summer, our most trying season. Now months of fair weather, good food, and a chance to enjoy nature lie ahead.” (Seasons of Real Florida, Chapter 1, “The Subtle Season”)
Florida fall feels like Kansas City spring. Sunshine is warm rather than punishing; the air crisps and caresses in gentle breezes.
I hope to open the windows soon and breathe “real” instead of “conditioned” air. It’s Hurricane Season until Nov. 30, however; weather can still turn mean and nasty beyond that date, and “extra-seasonal” tropical storms are not unheard of.
Fall is a dynamic season for birdwatchers. I hear migratory warblers before I see them. Tiny and fast, they don’t linger and are hard to identify unless you’re a practiced birder. Canada, Cerulean, blue-winged and golden-winged, and yellow-rumped warblers reside seasonally in West Central Florida. If you’re really lucky, you might spot a rose-breasted grosbeak, the males all distinguished-looking in their black and white plumage, with a brilliant splash of fuchsia on their chests. I’ve never seen the male, but a more modestly feathered female once graced my bird feeder. Fall is breeding season for hawks, ospreys, and great blue herons.
In cooler weather I like concocting stews and soups and chili. It’s easy, throw-everything-in-a-pot cooking. I can wander off and leave lentil soup simmering, fending for itself for a few hours. No fuss cooking. And it’s stone crab season. Mom loved them, but I never got past their intimidating claws stretched over beds of crushed ice. Maybe this year.
After brutal summer heat and humidity when I can only tend the “yarden” during very early morning hours, fall invites me to spend more time playing in the dirt, clearing and re-arranging, and planting. I like working bare-handed, my version of “earthing.” If I use any tools at all, they are very simple: a hoe, shovel, trowel, weeder. A friend offers a tiller, but power tools scare me. Much too brutal. No allowance for delicate decisions to pull up or pat down.
My own “plumage” changes with Fall. Pastels disappear in favor of darks— olive green, maroon, navy, deep grays and classic black. Personal fragrances change, too, from floral and fruity to woodsy and spicy.
These rituals make me feel more connected to natural cycles, more earth-centered, more attuned to universal rhythms. Although day and night are not exactly equal on Sept. 22, a sense of balance, fulfillment and gratitude prevails.
Photos of a female rose-breasted grosbeak and Joe’s Creek Greenway Park in Lealman by M.R. Wilson, TB Reporter.
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