In theory, Labor Day was supposed to get us mentally prepared for fall. We shoved white britches and pastel shirts to the back of the closet and swimsuits to the bottom of the dresser drawer. We bought potted mums to replace the scraggly geraniums on the front porch. We took a sweater along on outings, just in case. But the glorious days of September and early October were still long and warm. Burgers still sizzled on backyard grills. Nobody tried to remember where they’d stowed hats and scarves and mittens last spring.
Until the first frost arrived, as it did just a few days ago. Though the leaves aren’t yet at the height of color change, we know winter’s on the way. The signs are there and we must, however reluctantly, heed them. I’ve been keeping a running list of those signs in case I needed a “Good-bye, summer” column. Which, as it turns out, I do.
- It’s pitch-black dark at waking up-time. And pitch-black dark at suppertime.
- It’s not hard to figure out what to cook for supper. Red chili, chicken chili, beef stew.
- The polar fleece throw that’s been neatly folded in a basket in the corner of my family room is now strewn across the couch.
- The unmistakable smell of wood smoke is in the air.
- It’s time for the World Series.
- Hockey season has begun again.
- The sound of leaf blowers has replaced the sound of lawnmowers, though it’s impossible to keep driveways and porches and gutters free of constantly falling leaves.
- I’ve lost my craving for grape popsicles. And every other flavor popsicle.
- The arrow on my car thermostat is pointed at the red part of the circle more often than at the blue part.
- The goldenrod along the roadside has faded to gray.
- A few brave zinnias still bloom in my yard, but the plants they cling to are so dry and mottled I know it’s time to yank them up and throw them into the woods.
- My dogs seek a sunny spot to nap instead of a shady spot.
- I’ve put my flip-flops away and quit painting my toenails.
- Though I still have a hummingbird feeder with fresh nectar hanging outside my kitchen window, it’s been days since it’s had a visitor.
- Hordes of blackbirds—starlings, crows and buzzards—have returned to my corner of the world. Which is worthy of a column all its own.
- The squirrels are frenetic. Which is also a worthy of a column all its own.
- Not only do I keep a sweater handy these days, I’m suddenly trying to remember where I stowed my hats and scarves and mittens last spring.
(October 25, 2015)