I live in a place without seasons.
It's common to associate California with sunshine, beaches, and endless summer - but where I live in San Francisco, it stays between 50 and 65 degrees all year long. My daily uniform is jeans, a t-shirt and a fleece - even in July.
Changes in weather help us conceptualize the passage of time. Without distinct changes in season, my year is not broken into quarters as it was when I was living on the east coast. It is challenging to know the time of year based on what's was going on outside my window - the weather in March is more or less the same as what it is in June and the same as what is it in November.
There's always some plant that's alive here - nothing is ever rendered dormant by snow or frost. Some leaves may fall from trees as they would on the East Coast, but the Southern Magnolia, for example - one of the most popular trees in the Bay Area - is in gorgeous full blossom right now and it's a day away from December.
Though presence and absence of heat does not indicate a passage of time for me here, holiday decor does. Halloween pumpkins were quickly replaced by Thanksgiving wreaths. The morning of November 24th, just hours after we went around tables explaining what we were grateful for, I saw pine trees strapped to the roofs of cars and twinkle lights woven through fences.
After Thanksgiving, time seems to accelerate. Though it's still in the low 60s here and feels like Fall, the media (and my next door neighbor, whose tree is illuminated with hundreds of neon lights) tells me it's winter.
My mind is starting to believe it. When I grocery shop, I'm enticed by the Christmas Chai Blend Tea and the Peppermint Bark that's packaged in candy-cane wrapping. We've swiftly moved past fall and there's still a month of it left!
Since moving west, I've lamented the absence of fall foliage. Fall reminds me of layered sweaters, corduroy, warm tea, and LEAVES. As a child, I did all that I could to preserve the vibrancy of foliage. For years, I laminated leaves between pieces of sticky, translucent contact paper that my mom would buy in rolls from Staples. As soon as I had a camera, I started photographing my leaf collections instead. All in an attempt to freeze time and encapsulate the wonder that is autumn.
Though there is nothing quite like East Coast Fall, I did find a sliver of foliage just 2 days ago in Oakland, California (30 minutes from where I live in San Francisco). In a quiet, residential neighborhood, I strolled with my camera and found many trees turning color - including fruit-bearing trees that I never grew up seeing in Connecticut: pomegranate, lemon, satsuma, hachiya persimmon, mysterious berries (likely poisonous, but still quite lovely!).
The Christmas trees and sparkly lights had me fooled. It is still fall! It's not time yet for reindeer and snow and mulled cider. Seeing the foliage in Oakland reminded me to SLOW DOWN. Even though the media and grocery stores and my neighbor with all the lights will have me believing that it's time to holiday shop and hunker down for winter, I'd like to keep in mind that we still have nearly a month of autumn left to embrace.
Though I seldom feel a distinct change in season here, my walk in Oakland felt very reminiscent of East Coast Fall. For the first time since I moved here 5 years ago, I felt the presence of a SEASON. I felt a chunk of time - and I can see it passing. I haven't felt this in a long time.
I invite us all, even if we've already begun holiday shopping, to remember that autumn is still here. May we be present with time, with ourselves, with others. May we find the time to breathe deeply, go for walks, observe nature.
I'm always in enough of a rush - why rush the seasons too?