The walnuts are always the first to turn. At least around here they are. Their yellow leaves began to litter the bike path in August. Their nuts can be quite a hazard to a jogger if it’s not quite light. Still jacketed with their spherical rind, an unexpected foot landing on one can lead to a rolled ankle or even a fall on the pea gravel. Such incidents led me to wait until it’s light enough to see clearly before going out for a jog. You see, I like to exercise before starting work, so I jog at first light. In June this can mean heading out even before five if the weather’s clear. Since I start work around 6:30 this is a comfortable time to go. Nobody else is on the bike path then. And with Covid lurking, that’s a good thing.
The earliest sunrise comes about a week before the summer solstice. By the time summer officially begins I already have to delay my jog slightly. This is one of the great disappointments about Daylight Saving Time. After winter’s long darkness, it starts to get light in the morning and I think to myself “I’ll soon be able to jog before work again,” but then we set the clocks back and set sunrise progress back by another month. During the darkling months of the year I have to jog at lunchtime. The changing walnuts always warn me that such a time is drawing near. Already here in early September I’m getting back late for my usual work time since the sun is reluctant to throw its first crepuscular rays over the brow of the hill before six a.m. The problem with this is that many more people are out on the bike trail at six than I ever see at five. And often they don’t care to share.
There are a couple of older guys who walk abreast, taking up pretty much the whole trail every day now. They hear me coming, look back, but like the marching band in “American Pie,” refuse to yield. Single file for them is a sign of weakness. I have to divert into the dew-soaked grass on chilly mornings to get around them with my now-wet feet. I long for the days when I could easily jog before they even think of heading out to the trail. The solitude of half-light. The walnuts are the prophets of the tree world, however. Their fruit is both nutritious and dangerous. Scattered across the trail in the persistent dusk of a cloudy morning, they’re both a hazard and a warning. And it’s a sign that the morning jog may already have to wait until mid-May to reappear.