Wisconsin wasn’t a place for wimps yesterday. In my area, it was cold and cloudy, for starters, and the sky occasionally made good on its threats of rain. A cold front was coming through, and the wind was vicious. While biking to class, I was almost unseated a couple times by particularly vigorous gusts. When I got home, I was chilly, wet and tired from biking into the wind. And I loved it.
Of course, this isn’t my favorite weather. But I had my reasons for loving it yesterday. To me, this is a part of fall in Wisconsin, and fall is one of the best parts of growing up in this region. Fall is a time of especially pronounced change in Wisconsin. We go from hot, humid, buggy summers into four months of Ice Age. This season is Wisconsin at its most congenial. It’s a brief respite from the hum of air conditioners and the eventual non-stop running of heaters. In that sense, it’s a more environmentally friendly season. It’s one of the few times that we’ll trust nature itself to keep us comfortable, rather than machines. Meanwhile, days like yesterday remind us of what’s to come, and help us better appreciate the last beautiful, cool days we have left in the year.
It certainly doesn’t hurt that Wisconsin is also at its most spectacular during the fall. I’ll take the subsequent subzero temperatures if it means I can still watch the leaves change. This doesn’t happen just anywhere. One of Wisconsin’s main biomes is temperate deciduous forest (i.e., the leaves change and fall from the trees), which is only found in a few places in the world. Lucky for us, there’s a visual feast out there to tide us over during the sparseness of winter. For all those people (myself included) who will be gloomy under several feet of snow, just think: palm trees don’t turn red and orange.
Fall has the power to grab your attention and give it back to nature. True, summer is great, but it’s so static. Just as we’re beginning to take all that lush greenness for granted, it erupts into a blaze of fall colors, as if to say, “Hey! Look at me!” It pulls you outside and invites hikes and trips to apple orchards. It’s easier to think about nature when it’s putting on a show for you. Fall is a yearly reminder to turn your eyes to the trees once in a while.
Wisconsin will be a hard place to live in a few months. But it’s all part of a cycle of trade-offs that come along with living here. We put up with oppressive humidity and mosquitoes; we’re rewarded with the beauty of fall. We put up with ice and snow; we’re rewarded with the eventual onset of spring.
The thing about fall, though, is that we know the leaves and greenness and wildlife will come back with the spring. The same can’t be said of all species, however. For some individuals, whether by natural or human causes, this fall will be the last. No matter how much time a species has left, fall is a time to appreciate it in the moment.