Most of us agree — the onset of fall brings much needed relief.
When I first came to Rochester from Austin, Texas — a place where the temperature generally goes from hot, to less hot, to cool, and fall is practically non-existent — I was excited for a real northern fall. But, I wasn’t prepared for it to feel like Christmas in October.
Regardless of this shock, and the adjustment period that I’m not entirely sure I’m beyond, I am thankful to be somewhere that has a real fall. By “real” I mean a distinctive season, a shift in the weather and a visual changing of the world around me. The leaves turn colors, it rains more often, the air is almost always crisp, and a light breeze urges me to walk a bit faster to get inside. Yes, it is more difficult to be comfortable outside in a Rochester fall — where it isn’t just “less hot” but actually, fairly chilly. But, I would argue that time spent outside in this season could be more valuable than in the summer.
Everyone emphasizes that fall is about change — I won’t argue against that. Things do change in the fall — the weather is steadily becoming worse and worse, the dying leaves become warmly colored, and before you know it, we’ll be back to having only eight hours of sunlight a day.
This oncoming change is why I think it is so important to appreciate fall. Fall is not just about the process of change, but also appreciating that which will soon be gone. Go outside this fall — if not because you enjoy 40-degree weather, then because you prefer it to 10-degree weather. Enjoy the leaves not because they are turning beautiful deep shades of orange and red, but because there will soon be no leaves adorning those branches at all. Look for a groundhog, for even if you don’t find them cute, you know you will miss their presence once winter arrives.
Where I come from, there is no transition like the one here. As I said, Texas doesn’t really get a fall. It’s all or nothing down there, and I appreciated this opportunity to appreciate the world as it is, before it goes dormant.
All this being said, the onset of fall seemed quite late this year — this past week alone was a roller coaster of weather changes. From 90-degree temperatures on Monday, to the low 40s on Sunday, my body has never been more confused. I found myself caught in the rain on Thursday — I haven’t adjusted to the need to wear a jacket, and I remember, now, why I almost didn’t even bring my sandals to school. “Classic Rochester,” we say. “If you don’t like the weather, just wait 15 minutes, am I right?”
The thing is, this is not an event exclusive to our city, or even our region. Across the country, extreme weather patterns have been confusing and concerning citizens. It is not 90 degrees in the middle of September for no reason and the Caribbean is not getting battered — storm, after storm — for no reason. Not only does climate change does cause the global temperatures to rise, but it can also be a contributing factor to many natural disasters and extreme weather conditions. Increased surface temperature of ocean water can lead to hurricanes, and increased temperatures can lead to drought — which, if not bad enough on its own, creates a landscape more prone to forest fires and desertification. Global warming is even a contributor to extreme winter weather, with increased global temperatures leading to more moisture in the air — which, in a cold place like Rochester, can lead to even heavier snow.
I love fall as much as the next girl, and I appreciate that fall is finally here, but the late and harsh onset this year leaves me with a sense of unease. Is it possible that we are entering a period of time such as fall for our planet or for humanity? As we slowly watch things change — temperatures getting warmer, oceans becoming higher, entire species slipping off into eternal hibernation — I hope we appreciate them and the world they represent. As I mentioned before, fall is not just about the process of change, but appreciating what has yet to change, and, in this case — trying to slow, if not stop, or reverse that change in the hopes of preserving that which is still here.