When I was a kid, well, really until my late twenties, I knew a new season had arrived based on obvious clues:
CLUES FROM THE WEATHER
Spring: It’s going to stop snowing any day now. It has to. It can’t go from 78 and sunny one day, to 36 and dreary the next. Wait, yes it can (see fall weather).
Summer: Someone please find me a shade tree. STAT. I think my skin is melting off.
Fall: Uh, oh. It’s gonna get cold. Any day now. And it will happen like this: Monday – 70 degrees, Tuesday – 64, Wednesday – 72. Maybe winter won’t come? Thursday – 74. Friday – 69. Saturday 28 degrees! HA! Take that beautiful fall weather!
Winter: Did someone move Colorado to the North Pole when I wasn’t looking? *Reference same picture as above*
CLUES BASED ON THE SCHOOL YEAR
Fall: Crap school is starting. How many weeks until my next break?
Winter: At least we have two weeks off for Christmas. And they won’t expect us to do any work the two weeks before either. It’s like a whole month off!
Spring: A week-long break for what? I don’t know. Just to celebrate spring? I’ll take it.
Summer: Utter and complete, joyous freedom!
CLUES FROM TV COMMERICALS
Spring: In three months I’ll be able to ditch the mittens and go to the pool and have water gun fights just like the folks on TV. Until then it’s just cruel to show people having summer fun. Oh and don’t forget to do your Christmas shopping.
Summer: Why are you already advertising notebooks and colored pencils? It’s July for crying out loud. I hate you Wal-Mart. And by the way, school supplies can make great Christmas presents too.
Fall: It’s Christmas time! Really? I thought it was the end of October. All right, put away the scarecrow and pumpkins. I didn’t really want to give thanks anyway.
Winter: Now that Christmas is over, there are still more things to buy. And they’ll be on sale. Really, you should just start shopping for Christmas now.
Now that I’m a bit older, I notice more than the clues above. I notice the little things–small details that my self-absorbed, youthful self never noticed. It’s funny how once the world stops revolving around you, you notice more of the world around you.
In the spring, I never noticed the first shoots of green emerging from the earth, or the first ladybug babies snacking on aphids. My younger self only noticed the obvious. It was getting warmer and lighter.
In the summer, I never noticed how certain perennials thrived in the 100 degree heat, while others wilted and browned. My younger self noticed it was hot.
In the fall, I saw the leaves turn and knew it was getting colder.
But now I have a new way of knowing fall is here. In addition to the fact that it’s cold, sometimes snowy, and apparently already Christmas, I know summer is behind us because of a small migratory bird. A bird that I never noticed before. In all honesty, I didn’t notice many birds when I was young, and probably could have only identified five that lived in Colorado.
But as I grew older things such as birds started to interest me, so I studied up on all the little guys that frequented my feeder. The one I’m talking about today is the Dark-eyed Junco.
These little guys arrive in Denver every fall and hang out under our feeder or our shrubs happily eating millet or whatever else they scrounge up. And then, one day in spring, they all take flight and head north or to the mountains for the summer.
Last Monday, the first teeny, tiny snowflakes fell in the city. It was the same day I noticed the first pair of Juncos in the backyard.
That night I asked my husband to guess who I saw in the backyard. With some prompting (they come every winter, I’m talking about a bird, with dark eyes and their name begins with J) he finally got it.
My younger self would have relied on the snowflakes to know fall was here and winter was coming. Today, I don’t need the flakes. The Juncos are fair warning.
What are your favorite clues the seasons are changing? Do you notice things you never used to? Are you finished with your Christmas shopping? Do you exaggerate how cold or hot it is? Are you secretly happy when the back to school commercials begin? Please, share your thoughts!