Phenology is the study of the timing of natural events, like when birds start building their nests or when sugar maples begin running sap. Phenology—as documented in this great piece on lohud.com—is a powerful tool for scientists tracking seasonal changes brought about by climate change. Whether it’s a researcher at Walden Pond using Thoreau’s journals, the long-running logs kept at the Mohonk Mountain House, or our own team of citizen scientists, phenologists are on the front line of monitoring this phenomenon. ~AR
“Fall is better on the merits than autumn, in every way: it is short, Saxon (like the other three season names), picturesque; it reveals its derivation to every one who uses it, not to the scholar only, like autumn.”
Why does the third season hold two names, and which one is “proper?” Better yet, why are we quoting British lexicographer H.W. Fowler?
Life in the England of old (more specifically the time of Old English speakers, a la the writer of “Beowulf”) was, for those unaware, a touch on the morose side. So fraught with hardship and misery that people didn’t gauge the year by the four seasons, but by a single one: winter. They understood that a year had passed when everything hurt and you couldn’t go outside without wearing an entire wardrobe of fur wrapped around every extremity. Okay, so I’m exaggerating a bit.
Later—around the 11th to 15th century, or the Middle English era—the people were confident in admitting two seasons in the year: a warm one and a cold one, or summer and winter. It wouldn’t be until the 17th century that “spring” gained a foothold, and “autumn” and “fall” came into their own as possible labels for the period until then known as “harvest.”
But why the double moniker? Let’s just say pedantry and national boundaries play roles in the semantic drama, as is so often the case in language. Click through for the whole story. —MN
We had a good run, tomatoes. It was at times a tumultuous relationship—so many recipes and so short a summer. We scarcely saw eye to eye on your leggy pot presentations or the final count at harvest. But it was a memorable fling, huh? I suppose we’ll always have the heirlooms.
Right now, it’s time to move on. To apple cider and pumpkin pie, preferably. —MN
Much as I love the idea of wandering off into the woods to live an austere life of introspection and communion with nature, I have a terrible track record with the transcendentalists. Thoreau gave me migraines. Though his diligent work in recording the seasons while living by Walden Pond seems to have paid off for science.
More than I can say for my time spent with him in college. —MN
150 years ago, Henry Thoreau documented changes in the natural world around him. He scribbled down when he saw flowers first bloom and birds return from their wintering grounds. Today, Thoreau’s notes are helping scientists studying those same species confirm that spring is springing earlier.