Tuesday, November 29, 2016
The World Turned Upside Down
Weather: Last snow, this morning.
What’s blooming: Nothing.
What’s blooming inside: Zonal geraniums, moss roses, aptenia.
Animal sightings: Rabbit, small birds.
Weekly update: The Halloween season has finally ended. That’s my term for the period after the trees have dropped all the leaves they’re voluntarily going to, and before a severe frost completes the transition to winter.
It’s a period of inversions. The clocks change and we’re disoriented for a few days. The weather changes, and some plants thrive. We treat them like pariahs because they deny our simple view that nature follows the same Newtonian rules as the Earth. Many are weeds with genes that make them immune to our most popular herbicides. The purple asters sneak back with innocent looking rosettes.
One doesn’t mind the pansies and snapdragons that keep blooming. It’s understood they prefer cool weather, and they stayed around all summer as bits of dormant green. But the golden spur columbine die in the summer, leaving large swathes of brown. Then, in the fall they recover and refill the bed they abandoned to weeds. Even today’s snow hasn’t destroyed their leaves.
It took a lot to end this Halloween. The cold front that blew through November 17 didn’t change things much, even though winds in Santa Fé were clocked at 55 mph and reached 45 mph in Los Alamos. Morning temperatures dropped to 23 the next day. My cottonwood’s leaves only turned color. Most clung to the branches.
Then they got teased with rain and warmer temperatures a week ago Monday. Nothing changed.
This past Saturday afternoon my workroom darkened, and I checked the weather maps. I had stopped bothering when the doldrums began. NOAA showed the remnants of a hurricane and a great arc of cold air sweeping from it up into New Mexico.
I wondered, how did I miss a hurricane. This one was named Otto, and the last one in late September had been Seymour. I looked at the time stamp on the display to make sure my computer’s browser didn’t have some embedded date in it.
Another inversion. Otto was an interloper that crossed from the Caribbean over Nicaragua and Costa Rica on Thanksgiving setting records for its lateness and strength.
Otto finally got Nature’s attention. A flock of migrating robins landed that afternoon in my yard. They seemed to have come for the privet berries, but left when they didn’t like them. I never get flocks of robins. At most, I see a couple closer to the river.
We’ve had some rain each day since Otto. Yesterday, I saw more flocks of birds finally heading south. They’d stopped to feed in the grasses in some adjacent orchards.
After dark last night, we got some snow, with a bit more this morning. The forecast low for Los Alamos tonight is 14. Lingering fall will die a sudden death, and claim it was all so unexpected. Why, only Sunday the morning temperature was above 37.
Notes: “Hurricane Otto Crosses From Caribbean to Pacific.” Weather.com, 26 November 2016.
Photographs: All taken 18 November 2016, the day after the big winds and first morning temperatures in the low 20s.
1. Alfilerillo completely disappeared in the summer, then comes back in the fall.
2. The cottonwood still holding half its leaves.
3. Lush, resurgent golden spur columbine.
4. Vinca, which has grown very little since it was planted in 2000. It multiplied this fall.
5. Purple aster rosettes.