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?