Looking out my kitchen window, I notice the leaves on the dogwood in my neighbor’s yard are no longer their deep summer green.  They are blotched with spots of rusty-red and the tree’s tiny berries are beginning to blush.  It’s late August.  In a bit over a week it will be Labor Day and though the earth’s rotation around the sun won’t yet proclaim it to be autumn, there is an overwhelming and unmistakable feeling that summer is indeed over.  I call this time of year, Late Summer, a season unto itself.  It overlaps both summer and fall, and unlike spring, which pushes itself headlong into the heat, this season holds back, hesitating, as though it cannot make up its mind as to which direction to take. It brings us the warm spells we call Indian Summer, along with chilly days when I wrap myself in a sweater and don socks to keep my feet warm.  Evenings can be frosty and most nights I cover the houseplants that are still thriving outdoors during daylight hours.

I’ve been noticing small daily changes for several weeks now.  A brilliant red leaf on the stairs outside my studio has given away the slow shift of seasons. I look up and down the street for its origin, but can’t find the tree that has sent it my way. The days are shorter and the afternoon light has taken on a soft, golden glow as the sun steadily sinks a bit more to the south each day.  Shadows extend themselves as if stretching before settling in for a nap. The nights are crisp. I sleep with windows wide open, welcoming fresh air and the sounds of night into my room.  Every weekday morning at eight-fifteen sharp, I listen for the laughter of children as they gather just down the street, waiting for the yellow bus that will whisk them away to school.  I’ve missed their voices all summer and welcome back this joyous morning sound.

This is my very favorite time of year.  Spring is always absolutely gorgeous and the color is breathtaking here in Central Virginia, but it only leads to the sizzle of summer, which I am not a fan of.  I do love spring and in March, enjoy cleaning up the garden of its winter dreariness. I get excited as local nurseries open their doors.  I pick and choose what to add to that bit of emptiness over there, next to the day lilies. There are always places that need replanting and I am happy to do it as the energy of new life spreads across the land.

But in late summer there is a slowness that takes the place of that chaotic summer energy.  My body slows as well and by late afternoon my yawns grow wider and noisier.  I begin wanting to go to bed a little earlier than I do in summer.  And my choice in what to wear is beginning to change as well. I’m drawn to long pants versus cropped ones.  A light sweater or hoody in the early morning when I walk the dogs is now sometimes necessary.

My tiny vegetable garden still provides us with fresh tomatoes, sweet peppers and eggplant, while local apples are beginning to appear at the Farmer’s Market.  I already miss those scrumptious, juicy peaches I’ve turned into smoothies and eaten out of hand for the past few months and summer tomatoes will be gone once a hard freeze sets in.  Soon I’ll be enjoying winter squash and lots of roots roasting in a pan sprinkled with fresh chopped garlic and rosemary.  Hearty soups and stews are just around the corner. I always look forward to the peace and settled in feeling I have in October, but this year I’m having a hard time hanging on to that thought.  I’m never ready for the commercial race that will soon begin as we are coaxed into spending our money on the various holidays, stacked up like cord wood, between now and the start of the new year.  I am also not ready for the political fray that has already begun here in Virginia. We’re one of those swing states and our phones are already ringing off their hooks with calls from politicos trying to get our vote.  The local airwaves are filled with the images and words of both parties, dividing us even further, with their insulting attacks on each other. I have difficulty with negativity and this is certainly the season for it.  I will vote, as every citizen of this country should, but I’m not happy with what we have to endure in order to do so.

Despite all of that, I’m looking forward to the scent of wood smoke wafting through the evening hours as temperatures begin to drop … the crunch of falling leaves underfoot … and the continuous changes that each day brings as the season turns.  I wouldn’t be happy in a climate that always stays the same.  If we don’t have ice and snow, we can’t appreciate the warmth of June and July. And if we don’t have our sad moments, we won’t  know what happiness is.

Are you noticing the changes taking place around you?  What is your favorite season and why?  Would you be happy if everything always stayed the same?

This entry was posted in Life, Navigating Through Life, The Garden, The Seasons, Time and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

11 Responses to Change

  1. sarah says:

    i would go crazy if things always stayed the same. i’m in michigan, and only recently have i begun to really enjoy the winters. the snow is beautiful, and driving isn’t too bad if you know what to expect and to just slow down. i’m hoping to get into winter sports more, too. but fall will always be my favorite. there’s something about the melancholiness that is more aligned with my natural rhythm – it’s not that it’s sad and depressing. it’s more thoughtful, reflective. there’s a natural quietness about it alongside the beauty of the changing world. this post will remind me to pay attention to the changes happening around me more.

    this post is beautiful. the red leaf reminded me of a story by shaun tan called “the red tree.” i highly recommend all of his books.

    • jzrart says:

      Sarah, Thanks so much for visiting my blog and your kind words. It is the melancholy of autumn that also grips me and brings me into deeper focus and reflection. I’m so glad you are enjoying the seasons as they change around you. it is the natural world around us that keeps us grounded.

  2. Caroline says:

    Hi Joan. I love reading your posts, but I must admit a number of them make me miss home! Since I now live in the Pacific Northwest, where we basically have 9 months of gray drizzle and (if we are lucky) 3 months of summer/early fall, I can say with certainty that I really, really, really miss the 4 distinct seasons and each of their gifts. While autumn was always my favorite at home, I miss summer out here- both the heat and the humidity. Summers are so cool here that I always feel like I’ve missed most of the season. During Autumn back at home I loved driving up on the Parkway with dad for a breakfast of buckwheat pancakes and country ham, looking for the best places to sit and take in the scenery, and driving off onto every dirt road in a 4 country radius (and he seemed to know them all!) to find all kinds of interesting sights and treasures. Then he would usually play guessing games with me by finding flowers that had seeded/fruited and having me identify the plant. I also miss the mornings when the spiderwebs capture all the dew and look like diamonds glistening in the fields, the end of the Chicory and Queen Anne’s Lace, the smell of overly ripe fruit hanging from long forgotten apple and peach trees in the country, the curl of smoke and the wonderful scent of burning wood from a chimney and the inevitable (and yummy) homemade vegetable beef soup and grilled cheese sandwiches complete with homemade pickles. Autumn is such a show stopper at home, that it really does remind one to age with color, vigor, and light instead of exiting with quiet and melancholy. And I’m deeply envious that you (and Lisa!) are still able to enjoy the mountains. I hope you get to take a nice long drive over to Highland or Bath County and enjoy the scenery. The last time I was there the color was stunning.

    • jzrart says:

      How wonderful to hear from you. It has been a very long time since I’ve seen you and hope that when you come back “home” again, that you’ll come to C’ville to visit us. I’d love to see you. I suppose it might make me feel very old, but on the other hand, catching up with young people from my earlier life, makes me feel proud and hopeful for the days ahead.

      What a wonderful heritage your Dad has left you. Your deep appreciation of the natural world and all of it’s mysteries is evident and in this crazy world we live in, too many people don’t have the faintest idea of what is happening all around them. When the “the spiderwebs capture all the dew and look like diamonds glistening in the fields,” I will be thinking of you and sending warm Virginia wishes to you and yours.

      xo, Joan

      • Caroline says:

        Will touch base next time we are home. Haven’t had the nerve to really travel with small child yet, are trying a flight to Texas next month to meet up with friends. I’m already worried about how it will shift his sleeping schedule, etc. and it is a direct flight and only a 2 hour time change. Hope to be ready to take him back home in another year or so- I really want him to have some time to explore the woods and fields- and find lightning bugs!

  3. traceywc29 says:

    Joan – This is such a beautiful description of one of my favorite times of year as well. Fall and the beauty that it is makes it my favorite time of year. I’ve lived in a two season climate and although Southern California is fantastic, I missed Autumn without fail each September.
    Even the dreary rain outside today makes me happy. I know it will cause the trees to share their most striking colors with us humans. Most of all, I love the light here at 41 degrees north latitude as our planet moves on its path, closer to winter in the northern hemisphere. There is nothing more beautiful than a clear, crisp Fall day!

    • jzrart says:

      Thanks, Tracey. You are so right about nothing being more “beautiful than a clear, crisp fall day.” I’ve always lived in a four season environment, and though sometimes I’ve talked about how great it would be to live in place where the temperatures are 75 degrees with lots of sunshine all year long, I know I wouldn’t be happy. I love rainy days as well, feeling that they are meant for cozying up in comfy chair with a good book and a mug of hot, steaming tea.

  4. bacon says:

    Summer was my favorite season until I moved to Maryland. It is too hot here to enjoy. Spring is so wonderful – everything emerging with new life. Winter is fun – never too cold in Maryland and I love the occasional snow day. But Fall, oh the glorious Fall. Crisp weather and the heat finally vanishes. Fall is now my favorite. However, I did live in L.A. for four years. I thought I would miss the seasons, but when almost every day was 70 and sunny with a breeze, I didn’t miss them. I enjoy the seasons very much. But to my surprise, give this girl 70 and sunny with a breeze – and she won’t miss them at all!

    • jzrart says:

      Hi Bacon, I agree about summer in the Mid-Atlantic. It is my least favorite season here because of the heat and humidity. During long, heat waves I get cabin fever from being inside too much. The seasons that I love the most are when I can spend lots of time outside.

  5. Debra Marrs says:

    Joan, I LOVE how you capture both the yin and yang of the seasons (all of them) – there’s much to love about each season while being even the least bit put out by some aspects of changes too. The fall season is my favorite season of the year too. I’ve lived from Illinois and Iowa, to the Pacific coast in California, with a brief stopover in Arizona, and now in Florida. In every locale, there is a shifting of light and energy that feeds me energetically during this season. Perhaps it’s that back-to-school girl in me that looks forward to the “new year.” The season also portends a shift to darkness, and if we’re not mindful, it can drag us downward into the cold vise of winter.

    Wishing you a season of abundant creativity, ease and joy, Joan!

  6. jzrart says:

    Thank you, Debra! I too know that “back-to-school girl” and I’ve always considered Labor Day to be the beginning of my “New Year.” You are right about being mindful of the winter’s darkness, but it too can be a hugely creative time of year if we meet it as part of the rhythm of the world around us.

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