Officially, it’s been autumn for more than a week, but you would have been hard-pressed to guess that.
My childhood memories are that the last day of school was always sunny, the first day back after Labour Day it always rained.
That can’t possibly be true, but it felt that way, the changing of the school calendar following the seasons from warm and dry to rainy and cool.
But this year, the signs of fall have been subdued.
We’ve had a few cooler days, but plenty more where temperatures were well above 25° Celsius. In the first two thirds of September, we had about one good day of rain, not enough to soften the hard ground.
The signs are there, though.
The skies are bluer during the day. Cooler evenings bring dew that helps clear the air of haze and pollutants. Longer nights, of course – less than half the day is daylight now.
And there are the smells.
As a lifelong resident of suburban Metro Vancouver, the smell I most associate with fall is the sweet odour of cottonwood leaves turning to mulch. They always give up the ghost first, turning yellow and brown and falling in drifts starting in August.
By this time of year, it’s impossible to go for a walk or a bike ride without encountering them.
There are some less enticing smells – some farmers take the opportunity to put in a late-season load of nature’s fertilizer on their fields. But if twice-yearly applications of manure are the price we have to pay for living at the doorstep of the ALR, it’s worth it.
One smell that’s less present, and less pleasant, is smoke.
Growing up, it felt like every other property had a fire in the autumn. Bonfires for Halloween, of course, and also for Guy Fawkes day for a few. But the major reason for a fire was simply to burn up the accumulated yard waste, dried out pruned branches and leaves. There were days when it felt like half the Fraser Valley was pumping out smoke, with some people mixing in trash. I don’t miss those days of lax enforcement of the burning bylaws.
Fall weather around here always means rain, of course, but sometimes you can feel the weather resisting, as it has this year.
We’ll know it’s really fall when it rains for three or four days in a row, mixing in heavy showers, drizzle, mist, steady rain, and maybe a little bit of morning fog. By mid-October this has usually settled in. Sometimes you even get the first frost.
Then we’ll get one of those brief, last days of warm weather, temperatures up around 18 to 20°or so, and it it’s a weekend, well, the stampede starts.
Everyone heads outside. Dog walkers, joggers, hikers, cyclists, everyone wearing easily-sheddable jackets. The coffee shops towel the pooled rainwater off their outdoor tables. Every park is suddenly packed and there are kids running in the leaves everywhere.
It’s the last hurrah, with the air scrubbed clean by the rain. We won’t see that happy frenzy again until spring.
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