Forest Journal for Sept. 13, 2015
By Jack Savage
You know that we’re on the cusp of a new season when you start hearing people predict the end of time. A few hot days beyond Labor Day surely must be a sign of imminent catastrophic collapse.
Though the current political climate may suggest otherwise, we live in the temperate latitudes of our planet. Those are usually defined (at least for now) as regions between 23 and 66 degrees latitude. Manchester is just a tick over 43 degrees latitude, and in Coos County, we mark the 45th parallel (north) with a sign along the highway, noting that the point is halfway between the equator and the North Pole.
In theory, anyway. The true halfway point is just over 10 miles north of the 45th parallel because the earth isn’t round. Instead, like my torso, it bulges at the equator and is flattened at the poles.
The 45th parallel also marks the approximate boundary between the U.S. and Canada between the Connecticut River here and the St. Lawrence in New York. There are times when certain entities in Quebec seem to have forgotten that any such boundary has been agreed upon.
As we are located in the temperate latitudes, our New Hampshire forests are temperate mixed deciduous forests. They cushion the fall of a fair amount of rain and snow. Deciduous trees are those that lose their leaves in the winter, which helps them survive a long winter with less sunlight and cold temperatures.
Being latitudinally temperate also means we have seasons. Cold, warming, Warm, cooling. Less light, more light. I suspect we are hardwired to look for signs of the coming changes to prompt us to prepare. As the sun sets sooner, our DNA puts the splitting maul into our hands and urges us to get to work filling the woodshed with the product of our deciduous forests.
But if you’re immune to those, here are five modern signs of impending seasonal shift:
News from afar will announce the imminent release of a new ipad, just in time for Christmas. Count on it—we high-tech squirrels will be afforded the opportunity to exchange some of our hard-won nuts for the latest gadget (with even MORE pixels!). We may run out of food in February, but we’ll be able watch videos of others eating in HD.
You know it's fall when you see reports of colonies of "college students" fledging to what naturalists call "campuses" where they dwell together in "dorms". This species also exhibits a conspicuous mating ritual called "spring break" that is a sure sign that the end of winter is nigh. Following four or more years of this migration pattern, the "college student" often returns to its nest, usually in the basement, often causing its parents to go into a state of "depression."
By the way, clever parents have solved this problem by simply discontinuing internet service in the household. Try it.
When you hear the Patriots being accused of cheating, you know it’s winter and the coming of the NFL playoffs. Or spring. Or summer. Or fall. Maybe I should just say that when you hear the Patriots being accused of cheating, you know it’s one season or the other.
There was a time decades ago when Red Sox fans could reliably predict the end of summer by the intense feeling of disappointment that came each August, September, or occasionally October. No more. This year that overwhelming common sense of futility occurred before summer even started. And in three instances in recent history, joy replaced frustration, thus throwing off an entire generation. Perhaps this volatility is another side-effect of climate change.
You know it’s turning colder when somebody turns up wearing socks with their sandals. That’s also an indication of other things besides a transition to summer, but we won’t go into that now. Suffice it to say there’s a good chance these somebodies might still be living in their parents’ basement.
If this column seems disjointed and hurriedly written, it’s only because I didn’t think I would need to write it. It was so hot this week I figured the world would end before my deadline.
Jack Savage is the executive editor of Forest Notes, the quarterly publication of the Society for the Protection of New Hampshire Forests. He can be contacted via email at firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow him on twitter @JackatSPNHF.