As they say in Kentucky (and I imagine a lot of other places): If you don’t like the weather, wait a minute and it will change.
Last Sunday I remarked how the fall colors were beginning to overtake the trees along the shoreline of the small lake where I live. That was nearly a month earlier than usual. This morning as I walked my dog, I was startled to see bright blue blasts of chicory all along the roadside.
I look forward to the chicory every summer. It adds an appealing dash of color to my walks around the neighborhood. In small stretches where the sturdy purplish-blue wildflowers have managed to dodge the mowers, they explode in a profusion of color, as if they have been cultivated by a particularly determined gardener. Sometimes they’re gone the next time I walk by, felled by a weed whacker wielded by a callous homeowner.
But all of that drama usually occurs in early to mid-summer. Our weather this fall has been so peculiar that even the chicory is confused…or perhaps emboldened. It’s as if this hardy member of the dandelion family (Asteraceae) just decided that a series of early fall days in the high 80s was the perfect time to show off the sun salutation poses they had been practicing in their seeming dormancy.
Of course, we in Kentucky have had little repercussion from the record-setting weather that has plagued many across the U.S., including those experiencing the traumatic effects of hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and now Maria. We feel almost contrite in our lack of misery: we’re not dodging wildfires or monitoring rising floodwaters. Our weather may have been peculiar, but it hasn’t been catastrophic.
But even these smaller peculiarities may be harbingers of permanent changes we need to accept: vegetation extending its natural habitat north as warmer average temperatures become the norm; fiercer storms wreaking havoc in our communities; flooding occurring in areas that have never experienced it before.
If we care about this earth, with all its beauty and its ferocity, we need to pay close attention to what these changes are telling us. We can stop and admire an unexpected display of color, but we also need to be prepared for the sometimes tragic consequences of this new order. It’s up to us to make responsible decisions about how we choose to live amid this wonderful and sometimes chaotic natural world that sustains us.