I’m not a climatologist nor an astrologer who can read the stars, but I’m predicting an early winter. My neighbors agree. The rufous hummingbirds left a few weeks ago, and many of the broad-tailed, too, although a few are still hanging around the feeder.
Although the flowers started blooming later than usual, at least two weeks, because of the late spring, they all showed their colors at the same time in July— purple lupine, golden banner, saffron cinquefoil, lavender penstemon, white chickweed and white and yellow daisies, lemon-colored mountain parsley—an indulgent mass of yellows and blues that will spoil me forever. It was as if the flowers received some signal that, if they were going to bloom, they better do it now, because the warm weather wouldn’t last forever.
Last week, the blue gentian started appearing, traditionally the last flower of the season, the one that heralds the shorter and colder days of fall. Down in the valley, the rabbitbush (left) are flowering; in past years their yellow clouds of petals didn’t appear in the meadows and hillsides until October.
On my neighbor’s property, the aspen are showing their first signs of shading from green to gold, and I saw my first golden aspen leaf on the road. Along St. Vrain Creek the cottonwoods started turning a few weeks ago. The temperatures at night are dropping into the low 40s.
Last week, hiking up to Mills Lake in the park, I was met with dark clouds massing to the west and strong winds. Not the pleasant breezes of summer, but strong enough to form whitecaps on the shallow lake. It felt like fall, not the middle of August.
Early this week, the high peaks were draped in grey robes. All summer long, I’ve seen the elk sitting contentedly in the sun-filled meadows. But Tuesday, under the dark skies, the elk in Horseshoe Valley were agitated, running back and forth through the tall golden grasses, as if sensing the change in the weather. In the nearby campground, raindrops dripped from the tents.
Are there some climate gods I can appeal to who could keep summer going for at least another month or two? Can I make any deals (sacrifice my first-born? OK, too late for that)? Can I beg, get down on my knees? Can I lure the hummingbirds with more sweet nectar to stay another few weeks? How do I keep the ground squirrels and chipmunks from heading into their burrows for the winter? Is there some way to keep the aspen leaves blowing softly on the trees—maybe forever?
Stay summer, stay. Don’t go. Not yet.