Wednesday, September 15, 2010
Every new page of the calendar puts us through changes, but September’s winds of change blow especially hard. The weather turns cool in the evening. I’m closing windows. No more sitting by an open window to catch a delicious breeze after a hot day; listening for the wind in the trees, for the hot, tense voice of summer crickets. Looking for different clothes in the morning: Where have I put my socks? Long pants; long sleeves. Slippers, instead of barefoot. What provisions have I left in my closet for the day I knew would come? It’s come, and I don’t feel like rummaging around in the upstairs for my cold weather clothes yet. Instead of slipping out of bed to step outdoors to feel the sun on my skin and see if the morning glory is blooming, I drag myself out of bed to close a window.
September is a psychological transition. Old changes tug at us. The once familiar start of a new year of school, the bitter-sweet end of summer vacation. The culmination of the harvest season. These old stirrings wake within us.
This year August concluded with a heat wave, which climaxed on the first two days of September with the hottest weather since the week of July 4th. So as the last month of summer (and first month of autumn) begins, I’m back to my hot season routine of watering first thing every morning and wondering why I bought late season annuals to plant in the sunny vulnerable places (the answer: a crying need for more color). Not only do our annuals, potted and groundlings, need constant water, one hot, dry day is all it takes for some of our sensitive perennials to wilt; so I am taking out the sprinkler too to make the artificial showers for back garden plantings I’m tired of watering by hand.
We’re promised a hurricane to douse the heat wave, but Earl fizzles like a country fiddler with too much to drink and no sense of direction. The mists and sprinkles of diminished, hungover Earl give way to a run of clear, dry, sunny days, perfect late summer weather for the Labor Day weekend – that official, game-changing end-of-summer holiday. One last party, and then the party’s over – that’s the societal message.
In the garden it’s time for an end-of-season reckoning too. If I’m going to make any changes this year, now’s the time. If I want to transplant, clear some space, try something pack in some new, showy high-colored perennials – without of course any assurance whether they’ll be happy where I’m putting them – this is the last chance at good planting weather. I put this case to myself, but I can’t gear up for a big push.
I’m caught in the changes. The days grow shorter. Midday is hot when the sun is high, but cools quickly when the sun gets close to setting. Tomato plants are climaxing, but I learn I have to my tomatoes in as soon as they show red, so the veggie-sampling squirrel, this year’s new young demon, doesn’t have a chance to sample them. Teeth marks on the pumpkins; spoiled tomato scattered on the Adirondack chair. One morning I look out the window and see a squirrel climbing up the taller sunflower plant which has made it this far with multiple yellow heads. Disaster! The weight of the squirrel’s effort snaps the stalk up around neck level and whatever happens after that to the seedheads doesn’t leave a trace of evidence behind.
I look away from the carnage. This, too, I think, shall pass. I am in an odd senescent state, my energies fading away with the final blossoms on the summer bloomers. The tall phloxes are quitting too soon. The Rose of Sharon bushes, which started too early, keep up a strange tattoo of one or two new blossoms every few days. The roses out front have revived with a second course of happy pink flowers after taking most of August off, but the morning glory seems to have given up long before its allotted span.
Even the honey bees are slowing down, some falling asleep (or collapsing) on the blossoms, having lugged themselves to a final beckoning bloom and lacking the strength, apparently, to set their course for a new destination. Is there a new destination?
The bees and I have long had a common interest: flowers. But it appears to be time for us to part company. Whatever may be next for nature’s humdingers, I’m being told by September breezes to move on.