Regulars and Shorts, Slightly Off Center

Slightly Off Center: Autumn or Fall?

By Dennis Hinkamp

Autumn sounds less jarring as we brace ourselves for the impact that is winter.

All the humming birds have vanished from their sugary bar we so dutifully stocked for them all summer; no goodbyes, no thank you note, no tip; just empty bar stool perches and a sticky mess now taken over by wasps. Next year, there will be a cover charge. Other birds leave more gracefully, forming v-formations in the sky and honking gently into the distance as they spread avian flu.

Leaves fall and dot the unused water of seasonally closed outdoor swimming pools. Lifeguards go back to their other boring jobs. The young, stupid and beautiful sun bathers head indoors for spray-on or light tube tans while trying not to think about skin cancer. I go back to swimming my laps in the echoing hollow of the indoor pool.

The grasshoppers are creeping along like old guys playing basketball; no longer able to jump high or move quickly. They’ve eaten the yard and laid their eggs, so their job is done. Now they almost beg you to crush them to a quick death to avoid facing the slow torture of daily descending temperatures.

The squirrels are madly stripping every last seed and nut from the trees, shrubs and evergreens. They fight each other like shoppers at a grocery store the day before a hurricane. Now I know where the term “squirrel away” came from. They turn just about every available container into a midden for their winter food; the middle of cinder blocks, unattended buckets, and  the classic hollow in a tree trunk. Last year it was the inside of my trailer. Soon the only chattering will be their teeth.

Somewhere not far away in the surrounding mountains, deer are waiting for the first snow and packing for their winter vacation to our yard. They will spend several months eating everything we tried to grow this summer, including the thorniest of roses. They will poop unceremoniously on everything we’ve cleaned up or repaired. They’ll tease the dog, scoff at hunters and ruminate all day long like uninvited unemployed relatives that won’t get off the couch. Neither of which you can legally kill.

Darkness squeezes out daylight on both ends of the day to be compounded further by the looming end of daylight savings time. This is the transitional period of the year where I shiver in the morning and sweat in the afternoon. Jackets accumulate in my office because I need them in the morning and forget them for the warm trip home.

All evidence points to the end of another summer. I guess it is called fall because of the leaves, but autumn sounds less jarring as we brace ourselves for the impact that is winter.

Dennis Hinkamp would again like to thank his backyard pals for the inspiration.

This article was originally published on September 30, 2011.