DUNCANVILLE, TEXAS — I’m looking out a north-facing window, watching clouds approach and overtake us rapidly. It is still as Blue Jays cry and mockingbirds babble in the slightly browning oak. A monarch flutters south over my building; they have been passing through for days.
I’m waiting for the cold front to hit — for the cool northern winds to rattle complacent leaves. It will reach us soon, in minutes, or maybe an hour. The clouds have already blotted out the morning sun. Right now, the pleasure is in the anticipation.
Is it autumn or is it fall? I used to argue that Texas had neither, but I’ve learned much about the world since then and have developed a hunger for subtlety.
I’ve heard people from outside the States criticize our use of the word “fall,” believing “autumn” to be the more sophisticated choice. “Fall” was in vogue when the first British colonists came to America, and their descendants continued using the word long after it fell out of favor in other English-speaking realms. “Fall” is an anachronism, but the word itself comes from very ancient English roots, and I share Gerard Manley Hopkins’ interest in keeping our Old English heritage alive.
But “autumn” is a fine word too, and evocative. Here are some pictures, then. Autumnotica, to coin a word:
Ladder-backed Woodpeckers make it east to Dallas County — barely. This female was the second bird I’ve seen in as many years.
Smilax (or catbrier) always makes me think of the cooler months in Texas, perhaps because it stays green when other plants are dormant. But no touching.
This extraordinary green darner showed no fear of me. Whether she was chilled or dying I couldn’t say. On the larger image, you can see that the reflection on her eye is hexagonal. Do you know why?
A small white aster (from the Greek for “star”) in the woods. There are more photos in the gallery.