GratiTuesday: The Colors of Fall

I have been enjoying the photos many bloggers have posted of their gorgeous autumn foliage. The rich reds, oranges, and yellows are truly spectacular and make me wish we had the same seasonal brilliance where we live. Except for a few liquid ambers dotting our neighborhood, our temperatures don’t get cold enough for most of the trees that produce the glorious fall displays.

Fortunately for us, even though we don’t have the blazing foliage colors enjoyed in colder climates, nature paints her brilliant fall hues on a different canvas. Rather than the reds, oranges, and yellows appearing in the trees, these colors are splashed across the sky.

Sunrise

There is, of course, a scientific reason why fall and winter sunrises and sunsets are so spectacular. As the days grow shorter, the angle of the sun is lower which means that the sunlight takes a longer path through the atmosphere. Since blue light has a shorter wavelength, it gets scattered by air molecules. Colors with longer wavelengths, such as reds and oranges, become more pronounced as they pass through the atmosphere.

Sunset

Clouds also add to the beauty of sunrises and sunsets because they catch the red-orange rays of the sun and help reflect the colors. Cirrus and altocumulus clouds are especially conducive to spectacular displays because they are high enough not to be impacted by the dust and haze in the atmosphere.

But, enough science…

Fall’s colors are magnificent no matter how they are made or what canvas they appear on. Each time I am treated to the beauty of a dazzling sunrise or a vivid sunset, I am so grateful to be a witness to nature’s artistry. Because, to quote the great Dr. Seuss, “when you stop and look around, this life is pretty amazing”.

GratiTuesday: Daylight Savings Time

This past Sunday, I preformed one of my favorite rites of spring; I adjusted all of our clocks forward one hour. As I made the change, I didn’t mind in the least that I instantly lost one hour of my day. For me, it was a very small price to pay for the extra hour of light I’ll enjoy each evening until November 6, when I have to turn the clocks back.

Daylight savings sunrise
Daylight savings sunrise

When I was working, I remember that at first it was a little hard to adjust to getting up in the dark. But, slowly, the summer sun would work its way toward the equator and, in a few weeks, my 6:30 am wake-up time would again be bathed in light. What made those dark mornings well worth it was knowing that it would be light out when I left the office and that I’d still have a few hours of daylight when I got home.

Now that I am retired you might think the time change wouldn’t be as exciting for me as it was before. After all, I can get up whenever I desire, spend whatever time I want to outdoors, and then go to bed when the spirit moves me. While that is true for the most part, I still live in a world of appointments and schedules, and sunset at 7:00 or 8:00 pm feels very different from sunset at 5:00 or 6:00 pm.

I realize that not everyone is enamored with daylight savings time. Some people don’t like the hassle of changing their clocks twice a year. Others have schedules that benefit more from having the extra daylight in the morning. Those people might be happier living in one of the several states or territories that have opted out of observing daylight savings time, including Hawaii, most of Arizona, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.

I was horrified recently to learn that one of our state senators has introduced a bill that would affectively end daylight savings time in California. Noooooooooooooooooooo! I’m not sure whether there is any threat of having the bill pass, but I would be happy to buy the senator a oneway ticket to Arizona so he can enjoy standard time year-round and leave the rest of us alone.

Switching to daylight savings time makes me happy. It signals that spring is just around the corner, and summer is not too far off. It means baseball and barbecues and drinks out on the deck. I am so very grateful for the extra sunshine at the end of my day, where it belongs.

Stringing Together the Florida Keys

Because our journey to Cuba would be launched from Miami, my husband and I had an opportunity to fulfill another long-held desire: to drive the scenic coastal highway along the Florida Keys. Although we had been to Florida several times before, we had never tacked the time onto our vacation necessary to make the journey. This visit though, we added a few days to explore the area, which had the additional benefit of allowing us to acclimate ourselves to the three-hour time zone difference before we reached our main destination.

Although I was aware that the Keys – and especially Key West – had become a bit of a tourist trap, I still wanted to see them for myself. I was intrigued by pictures of turquoise waters and distinctive architecture, fascinated to read about the time Hemmingway spent in Key West, and inspired by the romance of the many songs written about this beautiful necklace of islands along the coral archipelago.

42 overseas bridges span the islands from Key Largo to Key West
42 overseas bridges span the islands from Key Largo to Key West

There are more than 800 islands that make up the Keys but fewer than 50 of these are inhabited (“Key” is derived from the Spanish word Cayo which means small island).  The Overseas Highway that stretches from Key Largo to Key West is a series of causeways and bridges — including the spectacular Seven Mile Bridge – and provides plenty of vistas along the way. It was built to replace the Overseas Railway that was constructed in the early 1910s and then destroyed by a category 5 hurricane in 1935. It takes about 3 – 4 hours to drive the 110 mile route, depending on traffic and the number of stops needed to admire the scenery and, of course, to grab a cheeseburger in paradise.

We only had two days set aside for our visit and, looking back, we should have allowed for more. There is a lot to see and do on these beautiful and captivating little islands.

Hemmingway's house and museum is home to 40 - 50 polydactyl (six-toed) cats
Hemingway’s house and museum is home to 40 – 50 polydactyl (six-toed) cats. If you look closely, you can see Truman’s “thumb”
The study in Hemmingway's Key West home
The study in Hemingway’s home, where it is said that he wrote “To Have and Have Not,” a novel about Key West during the Great Depression
In Key West a marker indicates the southernmost point in the continental U.S. (just 90 miles from Cuba!)
In Key West a marker indicates the southernmost point in the continental U.S. (just 90 miles from Cuba!)
Sailing into the sunset
Sailing into the sunset off the shores of Key West
The crowd at Mallory Square gathers to watch the sunset
The crowds at Mallory Square gather each night to watch the sunset
After the sun set, the crowd applauded and disbursed, unaware that the best part of the sunset occurs several minutes after it disappears below the horizon
After the sun set, the crowd applauded and disbursed, unaware that the best part of the sunset occurs several minutes after it disappears below the horizon