Is There Really Autumn in Arizona?

September 22 is our autumnal equinox. Fall arrives. Yes, East Coast friends and family, autumn in Tucson does happen. Leaves do change color. Witness the cottonwoods by the creek in Sabino Canyon. Golden.



Pick your own pumpkins and fruit and gawk at the huge sunflowers at Apple Annie’s in Wilcox.



Aspen trees in Arizona turn a brilliant sunshine-drenched yellow. Okay, so my photo is from Cedar Breaks, but it is just over the line in Utah.

Mornings around our house are greeted by “I think we can open up” meaning no A/C but some fresh cool morning air. Maybe the A/C goes back on in the afternoon when the thermometer rises to the high 90s or perilously close to 100°, but the house is open and airy for a few hours.

Clothing choice becomes fallish, a short-sleeved top as opposed to the thinnest sleeveless one I can find. When there’s a September or October day where the evening temps plummet to 60-65°, fashionistas break out the shawls, scarves, and long pants that would induce heat exhaustion in the tri-month heat blast that is summer. Flip-flops are still a staple for footwear; this is Tucson, after all.

The sun rises a little bit to the left of our bedroom window as the earth begins that tilt. And it sets just as brilliantly as in summer, but a few minutes earlier each night.

My friend Glenn tells me it’s time to think about cutting back on some plants, put in some new cactus, and reduce the irrigation time for the back patio plants.

Hikes and morning walks can be pushed to 7:00 or even 8:00 a.m. starting times – although there is something therapeutically calming about hiking at 6:00 a.m. when the sun is just starting to yawn and stretch up over the foothills. Temps drop to the 70s at night so metal fences and cement block walls cool down. Swimming pool and, for us, the “spool” (larger than a spa, smaller than a pool) water seems, dare I say it, cold when you first get in.

We live near Sabino High School so the sounds of football cheers and band practice drift our way. I watch with envy as girls and boys walk, jog, and run along the roads for cross country practice.

I find I can once again wear gold or silver necklaces outside without fear of neck burns from the summer heat. Additional staples are sunscreen and my insulated water bottle. The other staple is to keep my eyes open, to observe, and gather more “seeds” for my gardens of stories.

Enjoy autumn wherever you are!

Ethel Lee-Miller blogs regularly about people, the power of words, and the writing life. She is the author of Thinking of Miller Place, and Seedlings, Stories of Relationships.


  1. I enjoyed 13 years of fall in Logansport, Indiana, Then 42 years in Tucson, Arizona. The last 5 years I have been blessed to be in North Carolina just north of Charlotte. Each state has had its own special beauty when it comes to fall. I loved them all!

    • Ethel Lee-Miller

      It’s a beautiful country. I just posted a NY autumn photo on Facebook and am going beyond soon to one from France.

  2. joanne sabates

    How refreshing and inspiring to read the words of one who is connected to nature, to the earth upon which we dwell! Do we have to be middle-aged or beyond to appreciate the majesty in which we live, to thrive upon the changes of the seasons that prick our minds and renew inspiration? There is no evidence of tension in your rejoicing of life until the paragraph about locale, about living ‘near Sabino High School.’ There’s the rub—the challenge that will eventually face all of us, to age without envy but with admiration; to age without fear but with courage, and to love, without trepidation but with passion.

  3. joanne sabates

    How refreshing and inspiring to read the words of one who appreciates and is connected to the natural world. Too many of us dwell inside ourselves and don’t explore the outer world when we feel ‘out of kilter.’ I recently read an Alice Hoffman passage about the arrival of Indian Summer in Massachusetts, to wit: ‘Unexpected weather often caused people to let down their defenses…..’ A careful study of human nature could only produce a line such as this, and your autumn article reveals such a study.

    Regarding locale, in one of the concluding paragraphs you write: ‘We live near Sabino High School….’ and ‘I watch with envy, the boys and girls walk, jog, and run….’ There’s the rub, the tension that exists as we age. How to admire rather than envy is the greatest challenge ahead; how to accept the aging body even though the spirit within remains young.

    • Ethel Lee-Miller

      I enjoy your comments immensely. Interesting and thought-provoking.

  4. joanne sabates

    (Sorry for the double entry! There is a delay in posting so I re-post) ……And after 32 years of work @ CWCBOE, I’ve decided to retire and take a course in creative writing. Alice Hoffman has inspired me to do this; I have never read so many novels in succession without disappointment. The power of metaphor overwhelms me! So as the tension between conscious vs unconscious dwindles with age and we take more liberties in conversation, perhaps speaking metaphorically will forgive us these retorts…

    • Ethel Lee-Miller

      Retirement with 32 years behind you. Congratulations! I always appreciated seeing you at the office desk starting and ending my day. Now on to the next adventure. Alice Hoffman can only bring out your writing ( and publishing?) gems that have been waiting to be put on paper.
      Write on!!

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