As someone who likes to spend his free time outdoors, I do my best to be educated about the natural changes that occur around me. For me, that typically means keeping an eye on the sky for signs of worsening weather, but after covering Austin College’s celebration of the fall equinox, I’ve recently found myself taking note of the small changes which signal the arrival of autumn.

One such change which has largely crept up on me, are the shortening days. While I’m glad to see summer take its leave, it’s hard to accept that the daylight is disappearing earlier and earlier. I live for the cooler days, but there’s a trade-off between the lower temperatures and the shorter days. Nonetheless, I plan to make the most of it.

I’ve also noticed that the family of hummingbirds who frequent the feeder on my apartment balcony have devoted a little more attention to fueling up. I see them quite a bit more than I usually do, and, while that’s a thrill for me, I know they’re gearing up for their seasonal trip south, where there are warmer temperatures.

While I welcome pretty much all the changes of fall, there is one that’s hardly natural in any sense of the word and seems to affect just about every grocery store, restaurant and coffee house. Yes, I’m talking about the return of “pumpkin spice.” The food and products I usually purchase have all become infused with artificial pumpkin flavor and it irks me to no end. I don’t need pumpkin-spiced deodorant, and, though I love a good beer, I don’t need any pumpkin flavors floating around in my mug. And while I’m on my soapbox, please allow me to pull back the curtain: Most of those pumpkin-spiced goods don’t actually contain any pumpkin. What you get is far more likely to be spiced with other fall flavors like cinnamon and clove.

Life is full of changes, some of them are good and some of them are bad. Yes, the fall season shortens my days and makes it almost impossible to avoid strange flavor combinations, but it also gives me the turning leaves, some of my favorite holidays and the chance to spend some much needed time outside in the cool, crisp air.

Happy birthday Thursday to Richard Colbert and Jackie Van Hooser, both of Sherman; Lynn Mullinix of Van Alstyne; B.J. O’Hanlon and Tina Lawler, both of Whitesboro; and E. J. Miller of Palestine.