Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

Founded 1901

Royal Purple

The slow turn of summer to fall

Back Home by Chris Hardie

The turn of summer into fall isn’t an overnight makeover but more like the gradual creation of an autumnal artist.

It starts subtle with splotches of yellows, oranges and reds dotting the green canvas. Tall green corn stalks begin to brown and stoop. Orange pumpkins emerge from withering vines. Morning fog hangs in the coulees. The days grow shorter. Jackets emerge.

Then suddenly you notice one day that the hills are ablaze with color, there’s frost on the windshield and summer is over. Fall crept in without you knowing.

Fall is a season of such beauty but it also brings me a little sadness. Spring brings hope after a cold winter. Summer are those plans of hope put into action — new gardens, outdoor projects, long days of sunlight and feeling strong.

The shorter days and cooler temperatures remind me that I’m growing older. Unfinished tasks wait for another year as my list was bigger than my ambition. The summer that seemed to last forever when I was young passed by like a blink of the eye.

While our temperatures this year still give us a taste of summer, nature knows what’s coming. The barn swallows — our annual seasonal avian tourists that fend off the mosquitoes — have been gone for a couple of weeks. The old dairy barn — their favorite nesting place that echoes with chirping all summer — is quiet.

The wooly bear caterpillars are moving about, although I have yet to examine the amount of black on them. Folklore says the longer the black bands, the colder, snowier and more severe winter we will have. I’ll worry about winter another time.

Hummingbirds still appear at our feeder, although these are likely travelers heading south.

We have yet to be nipped by frost, although it will be coming soon. We’re enjoying the late-season tomatoes and soon will be harvesting what promises to be a record squash crop, along with a few pumpkins that will welcome visitors at our doorstep.

It seems like the apple crop is a bit lighter this year, but I’m holding out on the harvest, hoping that my son and grandson – my cider-making partners – will show up for a fun day of pressing.

I also will relish the beauty of fall and be thankful for the creator of such a diverse and colorful world. It’s a reminder that change is a constant part of our world.

But the thoughts of work undone and regrets remembered had me a little down one morning last week. Dawn was slowly creeping into the valley and I was outside for a morning chore.

It was faint at first, so I stopped to listen, just to be sure.

Much to my surprise, I heard the call of a whippoorwill.

“Whip-poor-will, whip-poor-will.”

The call that conjures warm summer nights floated across the valley. Whippoorwills also are migratory and spend their winters in Mexico and Central America.

But one still remained. Perhaps it too was sad to see summer fade away and was saying goodbye.

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