The Next Thing

Minute by minute, another August is ending. September whispers at the edges of leaves. It’s time for bats in the house and flocks of blackbirds lifting as one from fields and lighting like raindrops on telephone wires. Young woodpeckers sit on my windowsill and peck at their reflections. Hummingbirds hover at my morning glories and anise hyssop. The bees and wasps get more aggressive, the chipmunks get cheekier, and my pantry shelves fill up with jars to see us through another year of toast and peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

It’s the time of big clouds and dramatic sunsets and morning rain. It’s the time when the squirrels steal my almost-ripe tomatoes and I vow yet again not to plant them next year. The weeds I should have pulled are spreading their seeds all over the garden to be sure I’ll have weeds to pull next year as well. I did manage one big day in the dirt recently when the humidity dropped a bit and the temperature was only in the low 80s. But by and large I’ve been a neglectful gardener this year.

And as others finish up their trips and put away their luggage, we find that there are still places to go. San Antonio for him, Albuquerque for me, and smaller jaunts around the state for conferences and book events and hiking trips. There are books to write and books to revise. In the evenings after the boy goes to bed, we sit in the Cigar Room pursuing our shared passion.

Soon the goldfinches will be lending their color to the trees and the nights will be cool enough for fires in the fire pit outside. Soon we’ll be able to give our poor overworked air conditioner a nice long break. They’re predicting a snowy winter for the Great Lakes Region this year. I hope they’re right. In the meantime, I look forward to fall and bid this summer a fond farewell. It’s been marvelous. But I’m ready for the next thing.

On Garrulous Chipmunks, Belligerent Yellow Jackets, and Other Glories of Fall

japmaple02Somehow, it is October. This has really taken me by surprise. Most years, in September, I start getting out to the nature center or on the River Trail to take photos of the early hints of fall color. I get out in my yard and start trimming back spent perennials and vegetable plants. I pull out my warm clothes and closed-toe shoes.

But this September, one of the nicest I can remember weather-wise, was so very, very busy. I don’t quite know why. Perhaps it has to do with our big schedule changes at home with our son in school every day, karate and church stuff three nights a week, Sunday school preparation on Saturdays, research into my next book most nights…the list just seems to go on. Whatever the reason, I didn’t “feel” September this year. I missed it, somehow.

And so it’s October. The chipmunks are constantly chirping, for what reason I cannot tell. We’ve started a quarterly relationship with Terminix to rid our home of the yellow jackets we thought we could trust (who then perniciously invaded the sunroom) and ants and other such things. The bergamont and peonies are coming down with a serious case of powdery mildew. And any remaining tomatoes out there have been thoroughly taste-tested by squirrels, raccoons, and tiny black worms. The honeymoon’s officially over with this year’s garden and it’s time to do some pretty ruthless chopping and bagging.

Our attention is lifted from ground level as we start to notice the trees flirting with colors that have always been there beneath the chlorophyllic green. We buy the first jugs of apple cider. We start contemplating a nice color drive Up North. We remember to bring our camera with us everywhere just in case the mist and the sun should kiss in the morning over drifts of red sumac leaves. (Yes, some of us still use an actual camera rather than a phone.)

And we hope that we won’t miss October. Because this, the most beautiful of months, only comes once a year.