Cherry Picking
June 24, 2018

This year’s home cherry harvest began yesterday afternoon in between rain and hail storms that only added to the pleasure of sitting on a ladder in the midst of spreading cherry limbs. I don’t keep track of these things carefully enough, but it feels early to be picking cherries. Usually the first pie isn’t until July 4th.
I wrote about harvesting cherries in 2014 on July 9th. That’s a full two weeks later.

The catalpa trees were off schedule this spring as well; they bloomed a full two weeks earlier than usual.

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I so love picking cherries that it is hard to complain that they are early. I find myself recalling the sensation of cherry picking anew each season, the trying to select between ripe cherries and nearly ripe ones by touch alone. Color of course provides a good hint but there is a certain palpable tenderness to the flesh when they are fully ripe, an ease of release as the stem pulls free, a sensuousness to the picking process that seems to slip from my memory as the season passes only to be discovered anew each year.

Leaving these pleasures aside for the moment, along with the anticipation of the first pie of the season as well, there is something that I need to ponder for a moment. I recall reading about a correlation between suicide rates and weather that was out of the norm. This was years ago, before I think we sent out email newsletters. It may have been back perhaps even in the days when we owned a bulk mailing permit.

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I was writing about ‘Suicide Season’. Perhaps it is no longer common knowledge but suicide rates increase with the lengthening hours of daylight as the year moves from winter to the summer solstice. Some of you are going to demand a reference.

A 1988 French paper reported a “a clear seasonal rhythm of completed suicides with a peak in May” [1] This hasn’t gone away, a 2018 reports this springtime peak still occurs. [2]

Finland appears to be the world center of suicide research. Odd as it may sound Finland has maintained a record of suicide deaths since 1751. They also keep an accurate record of daily temperatures going back that far. According to these data, “temperature variability explains more than 60 % of the total suicide variance.” In Finland temperature and suicide seem to go hand in hand, thought the correlation was tighter before 1936. (for those who will ask, air conditioning was invented in 1902 by Willis Carrier so perhaps the greater ability to control the temperature had some role in this decreased connection?) Actual suicide rates increased over time. [3]

A literature review published in 2003, reported contradictory findings. Out of 27 studies, 10 found clear associations with higher temperatures and greater suicide risk. Warm sunny days were associated with higher risk on warm and sunny days. [4]

Thus as much pleasure as these cherries are, the warming temperatures that have made this early harvest possible may be leaving some people in greater despair prompting an increase in suicides. [5]

I should add that the Colorado Health Institute reported that suicide rates in our state have reached an all time high. [6]

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1. Souêtre E. Completed suicides and traffic accidents: longitudinal analysis in France. Acta Psychiatr Scand. 1988 May;77(5):530-4.

2. Hofstra E, Elfeddali I, Bakker M, et al. Springtime Peaks and Christmas Troughs: A National Longitudinal Population-Based Study into Suicide Incidence Time Trends in the Netherlands. Front Psychiatry. 2018 Feb 26;9:45.

3. Deisenhammer EA. Weather and suicide: the present state of knowledge on the association of meteorological factors with suicidal behaviour. Acta Psychiatr Scand. 2003;108:402–409

4. Helama S1, Holopainen J, Partonen T. Temperature-associated suicide mortality: contrasting roles of climatic warming and the suicideprevention program in Finland
Environ Health Prev Med. 2013 Sep;18(5):349-55

5. Deisenhammer EA. 2003

6. https://www.coloradohealthinstitute.org/research/suicides-colorado-reach-all-time-high

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