Sunday, September 23, 2007

First Day of Fall

This morning was the first sunrise of autumn. This is personally noteworthy because 18 years ago on this date, Dawn and I exchanged vows at a sunrise service outdoors at Bald Peak State Park (on the eastern edge of the Coast Range south of Hillsboro, Oregon). It was a small service (immediate family only), and my older brother flew out from his home in South Carolina--the rest of his family ended up spending the weekend huddled in their bathroom while their house was pummelled by Hurricane Hugo. Being a couple of poor graduate students at the time, we had (I kid you not) a pot-luck reception later that day at Champoeg Park. (The weather was gorgeous all day, as was my bride.)

This morning, as I stepped outside early to get the newspaper, I heard the first Townsend's Solitaires (Myadestes townsendi) calling in the yard. These members of the thrush family (think Robins and Bluebirds) nest in higher country, where they feed their young mostly insects. Many of them return to the high desert of Central Oregon, where they spend the winter feeding on juniper berries. They are one of the few passerines (perching birds) that establish and defend winter territories, and they do this to ensure access to a sufficient supply of these berries. Their clear, single, piping call notes (what I heard this morning) is their primary way of establishing and maintaining territorial boundaries.

These birds don't, of course, have access to our calendars or know that it's the first day of autumn. But neither do they migrate arbitrarily--we can be sure that there'll be cool days and cold nights in the weeks ahead. As much as I like summer, I look forward to the changing of the seasons, and am leaning into this fall.

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