I’ll start off this blog with a post that is not really related to anything scientific – just some observations that I’ve had upon moving to the south. I was born and raised in New Hampshire, but now reside in the Research Triangle region of North Carolina. A couple of weeks ago I was back up north for a few days, during the peak of foliage season. It rained throughout most of the trip, but I managed to get this picture while walking through the woods with some friends during a brief break in the weather.
As I write this, I am back in North Carolina, and it’s the day before Halloween. All of the festivities and decorations are in full swing, but I can’t help but feel like I am trapped outside of time, in a season that feels something like early September. The trees here still have quite a bit of foliage, most of it green. In New England, leaves are already dropping at this time of year, ushering the region into the glorious, somber, and altogether eerie month of November. It’s a time of year that evokes hauntings and deceased ancestors, with encroaching darkness and plummeting temperatures – no wonder people’s thoughts turned to spirits, demons, and monsters. Perhaps it was integral to the survival of the Puritan settlers of the region, sobering them up for the harsh realities of the five-month long winter ahead. I remember trick-or-treating as a child with snow flurries falling and thin skins of ice forming on puddles on the road.
In retrospect, it’s probably better that children don’t spend hours walking outside in sub-freezing temperatures wearing poorly-insulated costumes. Still, I can’t help but feel a little lost at this time of year without that profound elegiac feeling of an ending hanging in the air. Maybe its a bit strange to look forward to an annual period of desolation and austerity, but to me, it’s just as natural as breathing.