Wednesday, October 7, 2020

5 Minutes in Nature: The awe of autumn

Cottonwoods and Ground Cover, Autumn, Abiquiu, New Mexico

Changing seasons can help you appreciate the subtleties of nature. Often, you don’t have to travel far from home to find something wonderful to observe.

This post is part of my 5 Minutes in Nature project, a series of short activities designed to help you relax and feel closer to nature. Numerous studies talk about the healing powers of nature. One published last week by the American Psychological Association finds that actively trying to notice something new during a walk provides emotional health benefits for seniors. The New York Times also wrote about the study, calling the activities “awe walks.”

In the spirit of discovering something new — in finding some awe in your neighborhood — here are a few things to try the next time you can spend five minutes in the autumn air.

Autumn Tree Displaying Rainbow Colors, Snohomish County, Washington

Study how the leaves change colors
We all know that leaves turn from green to the various shades of the rainbow as autumn sets in, but spend time studying that change. There are many factors that affect the color.

Bright, cold days can really make the reds brilliant. In my neighborhood, there used to be a tree that would show this effect. The top of the tree used to turn red first. The lower leaves, which were in the shade more, lagged behind or never really advanced past the yellow phase.

If you’ve lived in an area for some time, consider how this year’s color has varied from what you’ve experienced in the past. Spring and summer weather also have great impacts on fall color.

Chestnut-Backed Chickadee Feeding, Autumn, Snohomish County, Washington

Watch how the animals prepare
Fall is also a transition time for wildlife. Some are on the move. Others are busy making preparations so that they can stay put.

Try looking for birds that you haven’t seen in a while. There are certain types of birds that I see outside my office window year-round. Over the past few weeks, I’m seeing a much wider variety. I’m seeing colorful songbirds that spent the summer raising families up in the Arctic. They’re making quick stops to feed in my yard before continuing their journey south.

Even for animals that don’t migrate, you can see changes in their behavior. At my place, squirrels are scrambling to gather food. Crows are now gathering in a communal roost at night after being spread out for nesting season. At a nearby nature reserve, it’s mating season for the elk and the males are sparring to show dominance.

Gray Squirrel Feeding, Autumn, Seattle Arboretum, Washington state

As the seasons change, there’s something new to notice every day. You can find awe anywhere.

(Follow Kevin Ebi's photography on Facebook or Instagram. Prints of his images are available through

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