Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chanson D'Autumne

Since this is the 100th entry I’ve posted on my blog, and since I’ve now been living in DC for six months, from April to October, I thought I’d take an opportunity to meditate briefly on the changes I’ve observed.

When we arrived here in DC, spring—which only a week earlier, when we visited to hunt for apartments, seemed a very long way off—had sprung: trees were blossoming in a profusion of white and pink and peach frothiness, looking as delicate and ethereal as a group of inverted ballet dancers, tutus pointing heavenwards. Swathes of pollen drifted from plants and trees and covered every surface, including our car, which is usually black but for a while, due to an onslaught of yellow particles, took on a sickly greenish cast.

The breeze was mild and full of the fragrance of flowers and rich spring earth, the air was filled with the clamor of birds’ calls, and the wildlife, in and out of the zoo, was focused on sex.

[Temminck's tragopan's mating display;
see my post for more]

Things are different now: the trees’ brilliant colors come not from blossoms but from changing leaves, and the wild sexual energy of spring has played itself out, turned into the ripe harvest of autumn. Not that this is Keats’ season of mists and mellow fruitfulness—there’s still a frenzy going on, but it’s a frenzy of hoarding and gathering, a frenzy of flight and imminent migration, a final wild firework of energy as the productive and reproductive part of the year ends not with a whimper but with a bang.

I can’t say for certain whether the zoo’s inhabitants feel, or demonstrate that they feel, this change—apart from being less obsessed with sex that they were previously. But certainly the zoo itself has changed: the beautifully landscaped grounds are turning gold and red or the dry, dull bronze of dead leaves; the air is no longer a humid as a wet blanket but crisp and slightly chill; the wild wood ducks and night herons that were so ubiquitous during their breeding and nesting seasons are almost gone—even the juvenile herons, whose brown colors are already fading into the elegant grey and white of adulthood, are rarer and rarer. The zoo’s hours will be reduced in November, as well, and until next April the indoor exhibits will close just a little earlier than when the light will fade out of the sky.

I’m not sure when and where the animals in outdoor exhibits will go—I hate to even contemplate a Friday empty of flamingos—but I’m sure that soon enough they’ll be shepherded indoors to wait out the cold, still months of winter.

For now, though, they and we enjoy this—my favorite—season: this intermediate, this state of transition, this untrustworthy charmer coming with her sweet scent of apples and woodsmoke, kicking up rills of exhilaration with each gust of wind that swirls fallen leaves into a waltz, this seducer for whom the trees blush and bare themselves, who vanishes along with the light and abandons us to grey days and icy nights. It could feel like a betrayal, and yet it never does: instead, I’m always grateful to autumn for ushering us into the cold months with so much fanfare and pleasure, so that even during our descent into the barren, slumbering season, we’re given a good fall.

[a dark-rum

On a different note, unrelated to the seasons but quite related to the fact that this is my 100th post since I started the blog in June, I thought I’d provide you with some statistics about Beasts in a Populous City:

As of this morning, there have been over 1,500 visits to the site and over 3,600 page views; 402 individuals have visited the site, some of whom—the discriminating ones—have become regular visitors; the site has been visited from people in 28 different countries, although the majority of visits have come from the U.S. (35 different states/regions), the UK, Canada, and France. The most popular individual posts (as judged by number of visits) are Stealth Educating, Creationism at the Zoo, Strange Encounter, If Looks Could Kill, and Great Apes.

So, thanks to all of you for giving me an excuse to take pictures of zoo and other wildlife and talk about them—and for writing smart and funny and insightful comments of your own.

{A note: I do write all text and take all pictures. Please do not reproduce either without my permission.}

1 comment:

Anca said...

Another stunning post, photos and text. Brava!

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