Sunrise is later and setting earlier. In the country farmers are busy harvesting, leaving enough behind to keep the blackbirds, sand cranes, seagulls, geese, and other birds picking through the stubble for food.
On the way to our neighbor’s farm stand to check on supplies and empty the cash box, I check on how red peppers have turned since picking ripe ones two days ago. A few butterflies twirl past, bees still visit the hydrangea at field’s edge and the Black-eyed Susan hold their own.
September is buzzing away as sprays of golden or red leaves announce. Seventy-five today feels warmer than a month ago, but we’re wearing shoes and long pants or shorts and sweatshirts in the mornings. The air feels quiet, not packed with potential. It is easier to look back at the good times of summer than forward at the diminishing weeks until winter.
Covid doesn’t help the slide. What seemed like the summer of returning normal has been anything but that. The reality that one in 500 Americans have died of Covid lays particularly heavy as the rules are tweaked, stubborn people hold on to their right to defy the scientists, doctors, and leaders. Do you see your grandchildren? Is the fall festival safe? And how will the holidays play out this year? How will we keep our family members alive and healthy? How far do washed hands and masks take us in protecting the young.
Arranging the stand’s products, remembering harvesting some of it during late June, and breathing in the September morning air makes for a good start. In a month we’ll be walking in fallen leaves. Please live today with care for each other.
Plowed snow covers a neighbor’s stonewall. Deer follow each other’s tracks leaving pathways through the woods. Ermine patrol exterior of houses in search of mice. Squirrels catapult between bare tree branches.
Three days of bright sun makes a friend’s installation of solar panels look like a good investment. Melting ice sparkles down the rain chain. The back porch is clear of Friday’s slippery melt and freeze mess. XC skies, snowshoes and sleds drip dry in the garage. Snow polished dangerously on roadways two nights ago has been forgotten.
Weekend visitors have drifted through stores with clearance sales, cruised snow mobile trails closed much of an unpredictable winter, brought a much needed dinner crowd to restaurants and bars. Better to have people late in the season when businesses have been down too long.
Maybe there’s a tease of spring in the breeze. Maybe that’s a foolish dream with more windy days and possible snow predicted midweek. Still time to buy winter gear priced at fifty percent to wear during the duration. The biggest storms often come after chili dinners with friends followed by board games are not quite as fun, jigsaw puzzles fill too many evenings, and the good fireplace wood pile is low. It would be better if football hadn’t finished so early in the season. Catchers and batters camp feels disconnected from this reality. But everyone daydreams about t-shirts and sandals.
County baseball league guys hold their initial season meetings in bars as the high school kids earn their way to winter sports state competitions and those fortunate to have plans pack suitcases for a few weeks in places where palm trees offer shade at the side of a pool. With Easter early this year the little girls could be wearing winter jackets over pretty dresses and searching for eggs will definitely happen inside the house.
There’s still corn in the fields as seed catalogues fill mailboxes. It’s hard to leave the house without slipping feet into boots, jamming gloves in pockets of a warm coat and pulling on a hat. Survival habits for at least another month. The snow that is still to come will clog the driveway for a shorter misery factor. But winter has a way of staying relevant as long as it wants. Put on another pot of chili.
Queen Anne’s Lace plants too late to blossom wave dried pods in meadows and along roads. More Goldenrod become dull amid remaining greenery. Creeping vine leaves are tinged with brown, exposing dead their host trees and stubs to the elements. An occasional Monarch butterfly flutters where hundreds gathered. Picked of most of its fruit, the last viable tree in the orchard offers rotting pears to squirrels and deer. Birds form back into flocks after months of carefree exploration
In a week the garden changed from generous colorful blossoms to petals dotted with brown specks, stalks of poppies, empty rose stems, leaves without flowers. Too tall decorative grasses or plants tower over shriveled annuals in pots around the porch. Acorns drop with abrupt, gently violent, sounds. Mushrooms claim their day of show.
Farmers markets offer piles of kale, squash, boxes of potatoes, onions and carrots. Remaining tomatoes have fewer days to be used atop store bought lettuce or spinach. Apples replace cherries, blueberries, raspberries. Pumpkins appear piled on wagons.
Summer left the land dragging with it a sense of promise and surplus. Fall took over acting all pragmatic, a combination of awesome color-splotched trees and clearing the earth of produce that can be preserved for the months when nothing will grow. When icy tree branches and drifted snow will be called nature’s beauty.