The Small Fall Of The San Francisco Bay Area


leaf-on-concrete

In the USA, Fall has been usurped. The Northeast rules our iconography, and yet. Sweaters, boots? It’s still in the 70s where I live. Waves of forest red? We’re still growing roses.

I’m here to represent other autumns. We know when the oleander drops.

oleander-flowers-in-the-gutter

You see, contrary to popular mythology, California does have a fall. It’s just small. It comes when summer has passed, when the concrete of our driveways cools down. Before winter, when it rains. Or doesn’t rain, so we gather at the dinner table worrying about whether it will rain.

Our light changes.

autumn-in-the-california-suburbs

But we have to pay attention. In summer we close our eyes and walk in the sun. Sometimes it’s too bright to get to the car without dark glasses. In fall, we look around. Even if around just means somewhere up above suburban roofs. The sensibility develops over time.

autumn-light-in-northern-california

And down. Not just because pyracantha berries are slippery and lodge themselves enthusiastically in our sneaker treads.

fallen-pyrecantha

In order to find fall in the grain of light on asphalt, and long shadows cast by leaves.

morning-light-on-asphalt

Not to worry. No plans to secede. When we want to share the national zeitgeist, we head over the hill to Half Moon Bay, an agricultural and fishing town that throws one heck of a pumpkin festival.

My friends, what are the joys of your particular autumn? Alternatively, which of your seasons do you nominate for the National Calendar? I propose Northern California to represent July. Oh, and despite a slight petulance, if you’re in Vermont I support your right to proclaim the forest red. It’s just that I suspect Alabama and Oregon might also have something to say.

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20 Comments

  • 10/19/16
    8:10 am

    Reply

    Jennifer said...

    You nailed our season. I can’t help but miss the rainbow colors of New England but I wouldn’t trade our sunshine for anything. Happy Fall!

    10/21/16
    7:59 am
    Lisa said...

    @Jennifer, Happy fall!

  • 10/19/16
    8:24 am

    Reply

    Heidi said...

    Loved this post! Born and raised very near to where you live, I miss the fall that you have described – the light, oleanders, pyracanathas, etc. Living in New England for 30+ years, I truly understand where the colors come from for fall fashion. Today, our New England weather will rival yours as we have already hit 75 degrees!

    10/21/16
    8:00 am
    Lisa said...

    @Heidi, Thank you! Happy to connect with people who’ve made the reverse life transition, i.e., go East young woman, go East:).

  • 10/19/16
    8:52 am

    Reply

    Leslie K said...

    Here (Los Angeles), too, it’s the light that marks fall. The air feels and even smells different than in other seasons.

    10/21/16
    8:01 am
    Lisa said...

    @Leslie K, This makes me curious, and want to go to LA in the fall some day.

  • 10/19/16
    9:19 am

    Reply

    Carol said...

    Hi Lisa, I live in the Southern California Wine Country. We do have a Fall if you go up into the mountains where some of the native oaks turn red and the Sycamores turn yellow. Happily, out here in the suburbs, we have Liquid Amber (a type of maple) that turns red, yellow, orange, purple and sometime all those colors on the same tree depending on the variety. My Bradford Pears turn a mix of orange, red and burgundy. However, for the most part, we only have two seasons – Fire and Flood.

    You are right about the change in the quality of light. In Autumn, it seems more gold as opposed to the yellow/white of summer. Once 3 pm passes, the temperatures cool down pretty quickly. No more air conditioning bills for the next 6 months!

    Happy Fall to the Northern Hemisphere!

    Carol

    10/21/16
    8:02 am
    Lisa said...

    @Carol, Ah, yes, that evening cools down so quickly! And I always feel for Southern California when the fires come:(

  • 10/19/16
    9:19 am

    Reply

    Victoire said...

    It was 82 degrees in Manhattan yesterday: full sun, sleeveless tops and sandals, hair curling in the humidity. And still warm at 10 PM!

    No autumnal nip in the air this morning in Princeton, even with leaves changing, dropping, and covering the ground. Raking them, albeit in shorts, is a more unpleasant chore than usual, but pumpkins are still fun …

    10/21/16
    8:05 am
    Lisa said...

    @Victoire, It’s hotter everywhere:(. I wonder how the leaves know to fall, when the temperatures stay high? Maybe they just get tired. Hmm, not to burden you with a gloomy outlook, I’ve caught a fall cold and I think it’s affecting my mood!

  • 10/19/16
    9:42 am

    Reply

    lauren said...

    it’s 80 degrees in new york city at the moment, god help us; my panoply of seasonal plaids reproaches me from the closet. thank goodness i have armfuls of migratory avian pals to confirm the season for me.

    10/21/16
    8:07 am
    Lisa said...

    @lauren, And with the birds, as the leaves, we wonder how they know? The change of the sun’s angle?

  • 10/19/16
    9:52 am

    Reply

    Linda Pakravan said...

    It’s 78 here in Andover, MA! The trees are in peak color. They give the light a golden yellow glow with a touch of pink. The yellow leaves are dropping and flying in the breeze today. It’s kind of magical. Today is a gift.

    10/21/16
    8:07 am
    Lisa said...

    @Linda Pakravan, I hope you got to completely enjoy the day.

  • 10/19/16
    10:14 am

    Reply

    Mary Q said...

    Here in Ireland there’s a slight sense of melancholy in the Fall especially as we edge towards November. The leaves are dropping daily, Every morning I wake to the sound of cows lowing. Now is the time the farmrrs separate them from their calves and they sound bereft. The hedgerows are bursting with blackberries, sloes and rosehip that will soon be past their best. We really do get to experience the slowing down of the year, and while I love the cosiness it promises, I am sad to be relinquishing bright mornings and long evenings.

    10/21/16
    8:18 am
    Lisa said...

    @Mary Q, This is just beautiful. And so specific to your place. The lowing cows, the hedgerows.

  • 10/19/16
    10:49 am

    Reply

    Danielle said...

    It’s warm here in Ohio too! And the trees are turning colors, so it’s a confusing mix of summer and fall right now. If the weather stays warm, we will see a fun range of Halloween costumes this year, not covered up by coats.

    Lisa, I was just reading Joan Didion’s essays about California in “Slouching towards Bethlehem,” and your writing reminds me of hers in the best way :) She describes the subtle changes of California weather so well, just like you.

    10/21/16
    8:23 am
    Lisa said...

    @Danielle, To be compared to Joan Didion is lovely – I should read her work again. Hope Halloween brings you all kinds of fun little critters.

  • 10/19/16
    11:06 am

    Reply

    Valentine said...

    What a lovely post. North Florida is the same kind of fall…

    10/21/16
    8:23 am
    Lisa said...

    @Valentine, Thank you. Hope you’re enjoying your seasonal light too.

  • 10/19/16
    12:05 pm

    Reply

    Deede said...

    Oh to be in Michigan now that fall is here…(apologies to Mr. W. for borrowing his words.)..Its 71 degrees now…A trip across state this morning found the leaves red, orange and yellow…dancing in the light wind…Pumpkins were in abundance at the roadside stands, apple spicy lattes on the billboards and fashionistas defying the temp wore ankle booties and blanket scarves…Hey, its just what you imagined when you thought of fall…all of that fall stuff…
    Have an apple….

    10/19/16
    12:21 pm
    Deede said...

    @Deede, B..not W smile…

    10/21/16
    8:30 am
    Lisa said...

    @Deede, So you have the prototypical fall! I thought maybe the Midwest might share the archetype.

  • 10/19/16
    12:33 pm

    Reply

    Mary anne said...

    Fall is a lovely season. Idaho is the North East’s low rent cousin. It is so gorgeous today. About 60 degrees and sunny. Perfect.

    10/21/16
    8:32 am
    Lisa said...

    @Mary anne, Sounds pretty luxurious to me:).

  • 10/19/16
    1:02 pm

    Reply

    Mardel said...

    It is hot here, although it had been cooler, and will be cooler again. It has also been dry, so dry that the soil is like dust, and the trees will not parade their autumn colors for us. Still the light is different, and the scent of the air. This is true wherever I have lived: Texas, New York, Spain, Tennessee. There is a period of transition, of slowing down, sometimes lengthy, sometimes so short it can be easily missed. Fall is my favorite season, although in Tennessee Spring is glorious. Perhaps April?

    10/21/16
    8:34 am
    Lisa said...

    @Mardel, I’ll mark you up for April on our Archetypal Weather Calendar.

  • 10/19/16
    1:05 pm

    Reply

    dottoressa said...

    This is so interesting! I’ve never given some thoughts about those subtle changes in your climate :-) except some clichés like “it never rains in south California” ,”The New York Fall” etc.- so this is what they call “whole life education”,my ladies :-). Happy to attend!
    I am jealous and like your seasons,so far!
    We (in Zagreb,Croatia) have the full fall,after summer and indian summer,42-60°F today,leaves changing colours,rain or beautiful sunny days (sometimes both :-),chestnuts ready to roast! Jackets,coats,boots and booties ready to go!
    Our 4 seasons are usually by the book
    Dottoressa

    10/21/16
    8:43 am
    Lisa said...

    @dottoressa, Yes, Croatian seasons would fit right in with the northeast and north midwest of the country!

  • 10/19/16
    3:22 pm

    Reply

    Kathy said...

    For me, the quality of light is the most noticeable change as summer becomes fall in Los Angeles. The slant is so different and and makes things seem more three dimensional than in summer, where the light can be very flat. The sky is also bluer, and even when it’s hot in the sun, it’s chilly in the shadows. I love fall. Lovely post as always.

    10/21/16
    8:44 am
    Lisa said...

    @Kathy, I love to hear this from an artist. The difference between the dimensionality and the flatness.

  • 10/19/16
    3:23 pm

    Reply

    connie kennedy said...

    Here where I live, Autumn features the colours of Liquid Ambers, Acers, Crab Apples, Poplars, the Pear family of trees… but as I live south of the Equator at the moment the season is featuring the blossom of crab apples, wisteria, early roses, flowers of the jacaranda trees, bloosom from the pear family of trees and a sun that is slowly making its summer zenith sunset in the south west.

    10/21/16
    8:45 am
    Lisa said...

    @connie kennedy, And suddenly I’m transported – the scent of fruit trees in the air at sunset.

  • 10/19/16
    3:45 pm

    Reply

    JB said...

    What about the breathtaking Sierra aspens? So fall, so California. Here, deep in New England but not far from the coast, I am coaxing roses & dahlias out of my garden before the cold & darkness descends. My love of fall has waned as it has come to mean impending winter and very long, dark nights.

    10/21/16
    8:53 am
    Lisa said...

    @JB, I suppose I think of the Sierras as a whole other state, as I do Southern California, and the far North of California, and the inner valleys…The long dark nights. I find I am far more sensitive to the seasons as I age – you too?

  • 10/19/16
    8:19 pm

    Reply

    Kristina said...

    I have a complicated relationship with autumn. As nut farmers, we work very long hours for six weeks or so this time of year, frequently racing the first October rains to bring in our annual paycheck. But we’ve got a fire pit in the front yard (front/back being an academic distinction on a farm),and I cherish beers with my husband and brother at the end of a long day, hungrily subtracting the days, acres, tons of nuts to hull before the end of the season. The sunsets through the walnut orchard are really spectacular then. We don’t talk about how they are spectacular because of all the dust….

    10/20/16
    6:58 am
    Flo said...

    @Kristina, Ohhh! I saw “complicated relationship” and knew I could relate [we have hurricanes come through/by/near/over/around us every Fall here on the Fla/Ga coastline, indeed we have just returned from most recent mandatory evacuation inland, we thought this time there would be nothing to return to, such were the dire warnings, but Hurricane Matthew tilted off shore to benefit our particular coordinates, so house was only damaged, water incursion, ho hum, hello Fall], but you, wow! Must you hull those nuts? Can you not ship to those who sell them unshelled? My sympathies to you…

    10/21/16
    8:57 am
    Lisa said...

    @Kristina, @Flo Nut harvests in the dust! Hurricanes! Surely these deserve inclusion in our national mythology.

  • 10/20/16
    10:26 am

    Reply

    Bungalow Hostess said...

    The light is different and your FALL looks similar to ours in many ways.
    We get lots of rain and fog which makes us yearn for bright sunshine to illuminate the autumnal foliage….today the fog has rolled away and the sun is out and the trees look rich.
    Enjoy your week!

    10/21/16
    9:02 am
    Lisa said...

    @Bungalow Hostess, We share a coastline! I only wish some of your rain might wend its way down to us.

  • 10/20/16
    11:25 am

    Reply

    Chronica Domus said...

    Adore Half Moon Bay at any time of the year but all the blazing orange in the fields, in the form of pumpkins, really is quite a sight to behold.

    10/21/16
    9:03 am
    Lisa said...

    @Chronica Domus, Agreed. And don’t you feel as though Half Moon Bay is still just a little bit undiscovered? I mean, more people every year, but still, not quite modern and full-on 2016 California over there.

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