September 2, 2016
I missed a lot of weather growing up — and wildlife. I remember mostly squirrels and pigeons. There must have been all kinds of critters and birds and coyotes (and god knows what else) all around me but I was really only aware of domesticated animals and sun and rain when I was young.
I grew in the San Francisco Bay Area and there was fog on most mornings and it burned off later and then there was sun. Sometimes we had rain. In the fall the leaves fell off the oak tree out front. For 16 years that was all I knew. Then I started going to Tahoe to ski in the winter on weekends with my boyfriend's family. I learned quickly and kept up with the boys and it was all great fun but I mostly loved the snow. How it covered everything and just showed up with big fat flakes when the morning had started sunny and how it covered trees and cars and roof tops. I wanted more.
I moved to Lake Tahoe as soon as high school ended before I was headed to college in Greeley, Colorado. And I never moved back to the Bay Area. I switched colleges and lived in Reno, which was close to Tahoe, and for 10 years each season arrived as a gift — a surprise. When I moved to Park City, as a single parent, I was so busy raising my children that the change of seasons mostly meant a change in clothes for us all — snow boots to sandals and sneakers. Parkas to shorts. There were lunches for school or day camp and rain only mattered if it altered an activity. I still really loved all four seasons but they kinda happened around me, beside me.
I know how "remember when" this is gonna sound but honestly the lawns in the summer here were mostly green and we didn't water. Most afternoons around 3 it would rain an hour or two, and then it would stop. We'd go on with the picnic or concert or game of volleyball. It would first snow in October –often on Halloween — and by Thanksgiving The Resort was open. In Park City, more than any place I can remember, weather dictates the conversation and the economy.
Then as my life changed, I swear so did weather patterns, and I became some days hyper-aware of it all. The swell of clouds, milky white/charcoal grey, that tiptoed over the mountains, landed as shadows on fields and sides of barns, while a wind circled leaves and lifted them. Then if the gods' odds were in our favor, there were thunderous noises and zig zag lightning and huge splashes of rain.
The sunsets as the rain was leaving started to seem so vibrant and vibrational they left us with, and in, honest awe.
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When the wind stirred up, whispering trees, the communications became quite conversational. The drying leaves create a different tones as they brush against one another as opposed to the velvety, soft-toned leaves of spring. The fall whispers are raspier somehow, deeper, and it sounds like a conversation is happening that is just a range maybe two out of our ability to translate. But we try. Leave the windows open — it isn't actually cold yet, just cooler — and we strain to pick up those muffled words. The night deserves a bit of pinot noir. Maybe a piece or two of outrageous dark chocolate. But no music or conversation — save the leaves.
Lately in our hood a kind of crashing has come at twilight. A shaking of branches and knocking into fence posts. We have Mama Moose — times at least two but perhaps three — according to various reports. Last Sunday one Mama had two of her young kids in my yard pruning my tree with hungry abandon. For nearly an hour they gobbled up the crabapples and the leaves and made a lot of noise in the cool evening with the patchwork sky and speechless neighbors who stood on porches with raised glasses and sealed lips to praise the moose and let them dine.
The next night they were in a different cul-de-sac down the road and pictures were posted including one with the Mama jumping into the side and windshield of a slow traveling car. The next day, midday, back in our court, a Mama decided to charge across the way to a neighbor who was simply, quietly, putting something in the trunk of her car. However many Mamas we have they are agitated and need space to handle their child rearing/teaching duties.
The angry moose, the rustling of the drying leaves, the colored clouds and shift in temperature — the fewer hours of daylight. It feels like there are messages I am missing. Changes being set in motion. I realize it may just be seasonal. But it feels like more.
I never knew there were moose in these hills until a dozen years ago. I have lived here for almost 40 years. I don't think we ever knew because they lived high up in the mountains and we lived down on the floor. But as the houses moved up, the moose and the mountain lions and a handful of bear have moved down. And it is exciting to see them on occasion in our yards, on the street, on a trail, but it is inherently wrong. We have encroached upon their homes, been disrespectful of their habitat. And now there may be a reckoning afoot. Time to recalibrate what it means to live in a mountain town. Time to carefully consider all the inhabitants before we allow more growth to displace the very natural world we ran away to.
Or maybe I just get restless in fall.
This weekend has promises of rain and shifting weather patterns and cloud formations and more trees changing colors rapidly. I plan to spend time on the porch, quiet, listening, watching, feeling the weather and hearing whispers from trees this Sunday in the Park…
Teri Orr is a former editor of The Park Record. She is the director of the Park City Institute, which provides programming for the George S. and Dolores Doré Eccles Center for the Performing Arts.