The summers are short in the Pacific Northwest. The days are long, but the summers short. Perhaps that’s why so many of us who reside here refuse to leave from about mid-July (meteorologists pin the actual start of warm summer weather to July 14), through the end of August. No where else that I’ve ever lived is it as beautiful in August as it is here.
So autumn arrives with not only a tinge of chill in the mornings, but a bit of sadness as the daylight hours fade earlier and the warm, sunny afternoons and evenings become fewer. For me, however, once I overcome the initial feeling that summer is fleeing, autumn reminds me that it is my favorite season of the year.
I can usually tell that autumn is on its way when I see the leaves of the tall Japanese maple in my neighbor’s backyard start to change from its summer green to its autumn dress of rich burnt oranges and golds. It signals to me that autumn will soon appear shortly after the first of September. Gradually, the colors seep from the tips of the leaves on the very top down through the entire tree as a though a bucket of thick paint had slowly been poured over it.
Autumn’s arrival also brings with it the arrival of the nearly 15,000 new and returning students to another of my neighbors–Western Washington University. Suddenly, the campus which has been nearly abandoned since the end of summer session in August springs back to life as those moving in to live in the dorms load boxes and bags from their parent’s cars into their temporary academic residences. It brings bittersweet memories back to me of the time when my husband and I, just a few years ago, were playing the same scene with our own sons. They arrive filled with such hopes, anticipation and excitement as they carry in their belongings to settle in and start a new chapter of their young lives.
To greet them, the many trees on campus hint at the display of color coming in the next month as if to say: “Welcome, there’s more in store.” And then, gradually, the arboretum behind the campus becomes a backdrop of autumn foliage. It flows down the hill, the top of which the university sits, into the tree-lined streets and yards below eventually canvassing the entire city. Then, summer is only a distant memory and autumn the vivid present.