While the East Coast typically enjoys the Fall change of colors, touting the many shades of red, yellow, and orange that dot the countryside, leading up to the stark browns of winter, those of us who live west of the Cascades snicker a bit. That’s because a typical Fall change of colors involves going from green to, well, still green. Yes, those insidious deciduous trees like maples scoff at their slow-changing brethren east of the Cascades. Out here, when it’s time to change and go dormant for the season, these west coast trees don’t waste a moment! One minute you are catching a bit of red or yellow in the leaf, the next the tree is denuded and done with shedding it’s summer’s green. So yes, they tease us with some Fall color which quickly disappears. But, while Fall seems to be all about the leaves changing color, what often gets overlooked out here is just how lush and green just about everything else seems to stay all the way through to Spring.
Yes that’s right, the ground may be white from time to time with snow, but when the snow melts, as it seems not to have mastered the art of accumulation in Pacific Marine environs and tends to disappear quickly, the common sight is green, green, and more green. The grass is still green, the evergreens are still green, and just about every pre-dominant winter color seems to be green, not brown.
So us Pac-Nor-Westerner’s are more accustomed to describing our seasons as the dry season, the wet season, and the wet-and-cold season. We know, for example, that our summer begins after July 4th, because it’s a big question mark what you’ll get in terms of weather before that point which you can claim as summer. Once we hit Labor Day in September, all talk and pining for more summer starts to give way as the rains start to become prevalent again. By October, there is no doubt we are in the wet season again, and by November, we begin to relish with glee the chance sunny encounters that break through the over cast skies that can make November all grey and gloom.
November is our swift changing weather month. It can give us glimpses of snows yet to come as the snowline drops down the mountainside. It can send wild wind gusts whipping through the valley rousing any remaining warm pockets of air from their hiding places. Regular rains now are the norm; and by regular we’re not talking torrential downpours, but the normal drizzle and pattern of short squalls that drift in and out again. We talk less about common rain, as if we expect there is an auto-timer on the sprinkler system that we just come to expect wet grass in the morning, and more about “weather events” that can bring in copious amounts, enough to cause rivers to overflow their banks and sandbagging muscles to be exercised again.
Then comes December, a month of sharp weather contrasts that reminds us all that we’d better be prepped and ready because winter is certainly around the corner if not knocking on the door depositing inches of snow. Still amidst all this talk of weather, we see the affect it has on our landscape: greens of all shades still abound. In that we hold our little secret of the Pacific Northwest: while other parts of the country transpose their image of droll winter months and wet monikers upon us, we who live here just smile and enjoy our active weather scene with delight knowing that we understand the meaning of “rain forest” quite well and the beauty that comes along with it.