Autumn in Southern California

DOWNEY - I have always lived in Southern California and people say that we have no seasons.I have looked for those New England postcard-type autumns. I went to Yosemite once in October and saw one lonely tree across the road from the chapel which was ablaze in reds and oranges. I drove home on Highway 395 and as I came down the Tioga Pass, I saw golden aspens quaking in the breeze on the east side of the Sierras. They were gorgeous. There were also yellow trees along the road to Bishop, Lone Pine, etc. Once, I flew to New York City to help Barbara drive her rebuilt car home after she crashed it. This was also in October. We had one day to spare and we had a choice of going north in quest of fall colors or going south to see Washington, D.C. I had never been to the east coast before and we were told that it was past the primetime for fall colors, so we went south to see our capital. As we sat on a bench by the Jefferson Memorial, large brown leaves rained on us. We did see some color off the turnpike in Pennsylvania. A couple of years ago, I was told to drive up to Brian Head when I visited my friends in Utah. I did and all the aspens were completely bare, and it snowed on me. This was also in October. On my trips to Canada I'd usually be a little too early for fall colors, but I was in time to pick wild blueberries and blackberries, and I watched migrating birds in formation or filling the sky as a black cloud as they flew together as a flock. While camping at Morro Bay, I'd see lots of migrating birds and monarch butterflies, and on the drive through See Canyon, fall was present in the form of freshly picked apples, freshly pressed apple cider, and pumpkins. Well, back to home where we are reported to have no seasons. We also have migrating birds, especially the Canada Geese. We have migrating grey whales and the monarchs pass through. Many people have planted liquid amber trees that turn bright red, orange or yellow and are beautiful. They are abundant around the Lakewood Mall and city hall. There are also many deciduous trees around. Candlewood Street is lined with huge sycamore trees and giant leaves fill the lawns and streets. They are great to see, but you're thankful that you don't have to rake them. I have raked leaves with the children at school and then watched them run and jump into the piles. It was great fun. In autumn, the days grow shorter and the air is crystal clear and crisp. You can see the mountains that surround us, and the breezes that blow through refresh everything - including our brains. The nights start to get colder and the flannel sheets, blankets, comforters and quilts come out and go back on the beds. The smell of wood smoke wafts through the air as people start using their fireplaces and wood-burning stoves. You smell dust when you finally turn the furnace on and its warmth soaks into your body and makes you feel all toasty. The nights sparkle with stars and the Harvest Moon returns and is a wonderful sight. Indian summer may make an appearance and you return to summer activities for a short time and may even wear your shorts to the county fair to view local harvests. You don't have to mow your laws as frequently, and lots of pine needles fall off the trees. Acorns and pinecones also fall and you may see squirrels collecting them for the coming winter. Dew appears on the grass and plants, and fog may creep in on you occasionally. Sweaters, jackets, sweats and hats make their appearance but the people - being Californians - hesitate to put away their shorts. Autumn is a time for smells and tastes. Spices come to mind: oatmeal cookies baking on a cool afternoon. Or gingerbread. Or pumpkin pie. Homemade soups, stews and chili are great meals on cool evenings. You trade in iced drinks for warm drinks. Cocoa, tea and spiced cider taste so good at this time of year. And cinnamon spiced pinecones appear in the stores to scent your house. As the days grow shorter, you tend to burrow into your nest and remain there until the sun comes out again. The sun emits a special light that seems more brilliant. While driving west in the afternoons, it shines directly into your eyes. It's fun to drive to Julian or Oak Glen to visit the orchards and get juicy, crisp apples. Pears, tangerines, pomegranates and tangelos appear in the stores as do Indian corn, pumpkins, candy corn and new crop nuts. Cornucopias are displayed along with Halloween decorations and, unfortunately, the Christmas items start appearing in the stores. Football season is in full swing and Saturday and Sunday TV is full of college and professional games. Spiders make their presence known by their large webs. They try to get plenty to eat before winter sets in. You need to wave a stick in front of you (or walk behind someone else) to prevent walking into the webs and the spiders. People who have lived where it snows and the trees bud out in the spring and turn into magnificent colors in the fall say that we have no autumn in Southern California. We have that season too. It's just more subtle and you have to pay attention to see and enjoy it.

********** Published: Oct. 24, 2013 - Volume 12 - Issue 28