With the flip of a switch, it’s no longer summer in our hills. School is open, the leaves are turning color, the apples are red, it’s cool and wet even on sunny mornings, and spiders are carrying their nurseries on their backs.
September bookends the steepest decline in hours of daylight. October, November and December have slower, steady declines, ending with the winter solstice, when the daylight hours begin their creep back. There’s no denying the encroaching darkness this month. The morning twilight and daybreak are later every day. The evening versions are earlier. The darkness is stealing into every corner, creating shadows where baking sun lay just a few weeks ago.
Bang on time, the irritants that cause me allergic consternation in the fall are in full bloom, and according to my records, this is the week our hummingbirds fly off to their far-flung winter vacation. The Monarch butterflies are still here, but they too will migrate before the end of the month. Flocks of Cedar Waxwings are flying through, but the Phoebes are gone. We’ll see stragglers from all bird species over the next few weeks, but then it will be time to wait for the bears to go to bed before pulling out the bird feeders for the winter residents.
Many don’t like the dark of September through December, bemoaning the going to work and returning home in the dark syndrome. Golfers, certainly, but after work shoppers too, so I’ve read. Not me—I love…half of it. Rising in the dark was never a pleasure when I had to do it, but now I can stay under the covers until twilight, at least. I love the early dark evenings, and did even when I held a nine to five. The autumn dark sends a lot of people over the edge into serious depression, and while I’m usually with the crowd on that edge, a dark late afternoon feels cozy to me, like something wrapping its arms around you.
There’s much to do before the early comforting dark arrives, though. Not a drop of what faces people in Texas, the Caribbean and Florida this month, of course, but a fair amount of work, some of it hard on the back. While the wood has been delivered and the chimney sweep is scheduled, all of the pots of herbs and hayracks of flowers, umbrellas and chairs and tables will have to be emptied, closed and stowed in the shed for the winter. Annuals, bulb foliage and vegetables must be cut down and cleared away, weeds pulled. It seems like we had little time to enjoy it, thanks to our wet and chilly spring and summer, and now we’re bracing for the hours of labor ahead to undo what we struggled to create. The flip is switched, whatever the calendar tells us. It’s no longer summer.