Autumn, Phase Two

The benevolent first phase has passed, those days of sweet clear air, deep blue sky, and luminous warm colors of vine maple, huckleberry and mountain ash turning. Frosty nights are not too terrible if the sun shines the next day.

But sooner or later the jetstream shifts and the storms come. Phase two arrives with wet gray clouds and causes the forested landscape to suck up daylight like a black hole. Chunky rain slashes the air with ice and cold water. Leaves fall to lie in sodden clumps under bare branches. It is the time of the raven–their voices rasp through the fog.

The woolen long underwear is pulled out of its drawer. Hats and spare gloves go in the pack, and I put on gaiters before hiking. Every week I make a pot of soup for a thermos hot lunch. I walk to work in the dark. This is the new reality. Summer is a memory.

Thunder Sky

This sky at sunset means thunder tomorrow. Unstable air is flowing east over the mountains and as the land cools overnight and heats tomorrow, the rumbling will start. Mark my words.

Last Tuesday the trail crew plunged into wet brush and sat under dripping hemlock branches to eat lunch. On the Fourth of July the weather pattern abruptly changed (as it does most years, almost like clockwork). Fieldwork took a break for the holiday. There has been puttering around the house and garden, reading in the shade, preparation of summer food and consumption of lemonade.

Back to the woods tomorrow, with a different attitude about sun and shade…

A Remarkable Phenomenon

It was one of those classic Northwest weather days when you can say “If you don’t like what it’s doing now, wait five minutes.” As we worked on the DeRoux Creek trail, the sky drizzled, then cleared a little, then drizzled, then cleared, then the wind came up…and so on. It’s been unseasonably warm, and humid with the rain and drizzle.

As we hiked out, a perfect arc of rainbow appeared over the creek. Rick commented on how amazing it is to see such a thing. It’s true. Rainbows have cultural baggage as images. But you can forget all about that and just look at one in the wild and be happily damp and amazed.