Two sisters, two coasts, one blog

Signs of Fall


The first leaf of Fall (photo courtesy of Valerie Mitchell)

“It’s golden in the treetops,

it’s golden in the sky.

It’s golden, golden, golden

September passing by”

– Miss Sunny-

This is the little verse I  learned recently from my son’s preschool teacher and I’ve been saying it over and over to myself these last fews days, because Fall seems to have come at last to Northern California. Deep in the throes of an indian summer for most of this month, we’ve still been prancing around in shorts and jumping into the pool as soon as school lets out.

But this past Friday the 23rd brought the equinox and the official first day of Fall, with a corresponding shift in the weather that seemed, well, cosmically aligned.

Like the verse reminds the children, the golden light is all around us this time of year, permeating everything. Last year the equinox fell during a harvest moon and I wrote about the pagan reverberations of the time of year. This year the shift is softer, subtler; more about the balance struck when the two worlds meet: “With summer’s best of weather, and autumn’s best of cheer” as another old poem says.

Nonetheless, looking around and noticing the signs in nature, I’ve seen the markers of a true change of season. The sun is lower in the horizon, back-lighting the world with a fierce glow. The drop in temperature brought the clouds rolling in, looking like a painting; almost “ultra-realistic” against the blue sky.

Everything is contrasted against this sky. Yellows seem more yellow, and the black silhouettes of the neighborhood crows are practically cinematic.

trying to capture the golden sunlight..

Unbeknownst to me, one of my kids took this shot through our living room window. I like how it shows the harsh play of shadow and sun from the Autumn light.

Thanks to both the unusually cool summer we had this year in the Sacramento Valley and to this last burst of heat this month, we are seeing quite a show of late summer flowers, swollen with the bounty of  the September sun.

dinner plate dahlia

I took a shot of this divine Dahlia that I saw in a neighbor’s garden while at a kindergarten birthday party. She said it was a volunteer plant, brought most likely by seed.


And of course, I’ve been drawn into my garden any chance I get. We have big plans but they all start with digging… so nothing to it, ‘cept to do it.

Yard work! / my California Fuschia (Zauschneria californica mexicana) in full gorgeous bloom!

The azaleas and roses of the sweet little old Portuguese lady who lived here before us are being dug up and lovingly re-planted or  re-homed as much as possible. They have to make way for winter crops and (maybe one day?) chickens. 1950s garden aesthetic move over, the new millennium is here…and we need to eat!

The fall flowering perennials are just beginning to bloom and the few edibles we still have are steadily ripening.

It is the Time of the mighty squash!

tenacious gourd, growing along the kindergarten fence at Alice Birney school.

also at the school - mindblowing morning glories!

But the season of Fall is also a reminder that everything must pass into dying. The transformation from one state into another. My sunflowers have been the harbinger of this change, and their slumping forms declare ‘I am ready to move on’.

Time to collect seed!

I love a sunflower harvest because you get so many wonderful gifts. The hundreds of seeds, each one it’s a glorious plant of it’s own, waiting to be born. Then there are the long tall stalks which can be dried and put to work all season long in the garden. Or else as long as they can survive, when wielded as little boys’ swords. It is such a generous plant, giving so much.

This year, just before we (by we I mean, my kids and their clippers!)  set to work trimming the stalks, we found another unexpected little gift secretly tucked amongst the leaves. Perhaps it was from the garden gnomes? (or maybe from our dear friend Joseph? thank you Joseph!)

soaproot necklace carved with a totem of the mighty Sun

we're ready to go

harvesting sunflower heads

let the seed picking begin....

I’m excited about the amount of seed I’ve been able to collect from my garden this year. I have some covert plans for making seed balls (aka ‘seed bombs’) this fall, and as soon as the rains begin I know some derelict scraps of city soil that could use a sunflower…or three. (But shhhh, you didn’t hear that from me.)

As we were finishing pruning the seed heads and dry leaves, left only with a fence of spindly stalks, we found yet another gift, this one perhaps the best of all.

An incredible white praying mantis.

The last and only other time I’ve seen one of these was in my old garden, the day after I landed back in California, having just watched my Mother pass away on her bed in New Zealand. At the time I felt her hand in the creature’s appearance, so like her it was. Beautiful, unique and somehow, a powerful symbol. And here it was again.

Every day, in some small way, I see my Mom.

But, from the mystical…to the mundane. The presence of Fall and the season’s bounty is apparent even if you’re just out at the shops.

I snapped these shots while stopping by Otos Market this week. These melons were at an awesome price, were all locally grown in Elk Grove, and looked pretty cool besides.

a plethora of melons at Oto's Market

Of course, it’s also a true indicator in our culture that Fall has arrived when the “harvest-themed” merchandise is already on sale. Of course it has to be, because the much more lucrative Halloween is on the way.

Fall merchandise...already marked down!

Still over a month out, it’s already that time of year when I can no longer take my little kids to the store for fear of being faced with weirdly gory displays of dismembered parts and end-caps of gruesomeness. Note to self.

Halloween freakout, in stores now.

But down at the farmers market this morning there was no shortage of wholesome fruits and vegetables to choose from along with local honey, breads and eggs. I’m reminded  once again that we are blessed to live in a rich agricultural land which provides us with all we need.

last week's haul

this week's haul

And, as if we needed any more proof that we have indeed crossed into a new realm and left Summer far behind us, today as I write this the first light rainy drizzle of the season is coming down! There is that smell of freshly damp earth and steamy concrete wafting through the open windows and I’ve got butternut squash soap simmering on the stove. Yum!

The pleasures of  Fall are calling and I’m fully ready to answer, and so I keep on humming….

“It’s golden in the treetops,

it’s golden in the sky.

It’s golden, golden, golden

September passing by”


3 Responses to “Signs of Fall”

  1. Norman Ross Powers

    A great post, chock full of observations, musings and sweet photos! The albino mantis is SO AMAZING. Our most successful homegrown produce during the summer were cucumbers, which were numerous, large and very tasty. The plants are withering now and I thought I should do something new to us, harvest and dry seeds for next spring. With excitement I cut open the last cucumber and scraped out….nothing! In all the cucumber eating we’d done I hadn’t noticed they were seedless. I hope we get lucky next year and find starters of equally prolific and scrumptious ‘cumbers.

  2. Jacquelyn Marie

    Those amazing sunflowers so remind me of Judith. She always grew them in Berkeley in the front yard and then incorporated them into her batiks.


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