I’m panicking over fall. I always panic over fall. Every year it whips into town with its brisk air and unnatural gourds and quietly transforms everyone around me into employees of industry. People who know how to do stuff. I assume they all knew how to do this stuff in the summer, as well, but there was no need to put it on display. We were all too busy showcasing our abilities to do nothing for as many hours as the sun hung in the sky. I was happy with this because I’m very comfortable with the expanses of nothing. I excel at the nothing. Give me hours of nothing and I will show you, in return, a glistening obelisk of nothing. Summer adds foot soldiers to my Nothing Army. Troops dedicated to marching — or just walking really slowly — bravely into the abyss of nothing.
Fall changes all that. The plummeting leaves are the harbinger of human productivity. Autumn ratchets up the output to a level that sends the Curators of Nothing into an early hibernation — in an unmade bed, of course.
Those who were perfectly content to languish in the idleness of summer have now snapped to attention, hungry to fill the cool days with all forms of -ing. Canning. Planting. Spicing. Baking. Knitting. Raking. Baling. My time is devoid of -ings. I am eternally hopeless in all verbs of -ing outside of eating and swearing. Where my phone used to buzz with invitations to get together to do — well, nothing — there is now an empty cache of voicemail memory. And I can no longer reach anyone because their cellphones have been forsaken along with their nothingdom now that their hands are occupied with needles and yarn or they’re off hiking to a scenic overlook where they can fully register fall’s majesty.
And it’s not just the humans. It’s the animals, too. Especially the poster rodent of fall, the squirrel. Skittering through crackling leaves, posturing with the hubris of a species that knows how to dismantle an acorn, they’re irritatingly busy and annoyingly entrepreneurial. They gather with a sense of urgency I can only muster for the deep discounts at annual department store sales. I jeer at the squirrel and mock its expedient way of filling its stores. I stare at them through the window and muse: Your life is statistically probable to end in the next four days due to a faulty telephone wire or a 16-year-old who doesn’t even realize you’re revolving with the wheels of her car because she is too busy texting the world about how friggin’ busy she is now that it’s friggin’ fall.
School is like the great pyramid scheme of fall. The kids return wielding a new and dangerous vernacular with words like bounty and maize and deciduous. They come bearing leaf imprints and stories of the first settlers. They look snidely upon me as if I know nothing about pioneering, but I watched all six seasons of “Dr. Quinn Medicine Woman,” and I’m about to hold this cloth soaked with ether over my nose if you ask me to take you on a hayride one more time. Their bleating to do something “fall-like” is fulfilled. I take them to an apple farm where they pick for what seems like an entire autumnal equinox. We arrive home with enough apples to fill the Mayflower, but this is not enough to satiate their fall appetite. They stare at me blankly. Why am I not transforming these apples into a cobbler? Or a crisp? Even those stupid squirrels outside could make a pie.
I run through my contact list, desperate to find a friend gifted in the arena of apple crisp-cobbler-for-Christ’s-sake-pie making. Friend after friend is unavailable, because of their myriad -ing interests, so messages of an alarming timbre are left.
“Hi, my car and my kitchen and my guest bathroom are full of apples. Any shot you want to come over and show me how to make something with these? I can repay you in mud clots from the underside of my shoes or with the alpaca that seems to have followed us home. Call me!”
And so another fall day passes while I do the only other -ing thing I know how to do: waiting.
Erin Donovan moved with her family to the midcoast where she constantly is told she says the word “scallops” incorrectly. She performs live and produces Web sketches derived from her popular humor blog I’m Gonna Kill Him. Follow her misadventures on http://imgonnakillhim.bangordailynews.com and on Twitter @gonnakillhim.