Welcome Back to Shoulder Season

Hiking above Red Butte canyon. It was sunny and graupeling!

I enjoy the light in the fall and the sweetness of the heat while the sun is up. I’ve pulled out my headlamp and tights for morning runs. I love jackets and layers and the unpredictability of the temperatures. Fewer people seem to venture out, especially in the mornings, and it is easier to find solitude on the local trails. Yesterday morning I took my dog Mack out for a run. I saw the headlamp of one other runner in the distance and Mack saw a ghost. Otherwise, in this big city, we were all alone on the frosty trails.

After a record-breaking long and hot summer we have now had a month of unseasonably cold weather, with multiple snow storms in the mountains. Fall never seems long enough, but so far this year the days that feel like legit autumn days have been few. Many people are talking about how early the leaves are changing color. On a hike last weekend it seemed the fall colors were in combinations that I haven’t exactly seen before, as bright red maple leaves were next to vivid green oaks that aren’t quite ready to change color. And then it snowed on us. Along with all of the dramatic weather events this year (wildfires, hurricanes) it is a little disconcerting, if much more subtle.

I read an article a few months ago that talked about how the smaller shifts of climate change are causing societal anxiety, and I believe it. There is an interrupted rhythm to the seasons, something which we expect to stay more or less the same. I wonder how this affects the other animals… are the deer extra anxious? The coyotes on edge? We all talk about the new normal, how there is no more normal, and may not be again in our lifetimes. While I am a fan of change in general, climate change, not so much.

For the past month I’ve also been having my own personal shoulder season after I crashed on my mountain bike and blew out my shoulder. Not in a really serious way, but in a lingering and uncomfortable way. Every now and then I make a bit of progress, but most things aggravate it. Fishing, lifting a bike on or off a rack, putting on a back pack, t-shirt or sports bra, pouring milk into my coffee, reaching for a glass in the cupboard. I am aware of my shoulder all the time, even while sleeping.

I go to physical therapy and lift tiny weights, and my shoulder will heal, eventually. Hopefully, before the good fishing is over for the year and before the trails are covered with snow for the season. But what is the PT for this earth-related anxiety?

For now, I focus on what I can do, on what is happening rather than what is typical, on the crazy rainbow of colors on the hillsides, and on the joy of running in the dark with my dog.

Laurel Hunter

Laurel Hunter

Central Oregon, USA