On September

Some months, like some people, have a very strong sense of who and what they are. May is spring. July and August are summer. October is fall. January, February are winter. If these months had a hair style it would be a crewcut. If they had a political philosophy it would be conservative. There’s a roadmap to life, and by jingles they’re going to follow it.

On the flip side are months like April and November, who feel constrained by labels and seek over and over again to redefine themselves. Might be 70 and sunny, or there might be a foot of snow. These months wouldn’t have one hair style or even one hair color.

Some months are demure middle children who can’t get out of their older sibling’s shadow. March is pre-April. June is pre-July. December is pre-January. Yes, they sometimes rebel but it’s usually muted and kind of cute. They don’t demand attention like their louder siblings.

Which leaves us with September. You might say that it’s a kind of pre-October, but where I live, anyway, its average daytime high (70 degrees) is much closer to August (78 degrees) than it is to October (59 degrees). It’s hard to call 70 degrees fall, and yet September is clearly not a summer month, that clarity based not so much on what you feel on your skin but by what you sense. There are more mice, and chipmunks, and squirrels than there used to be. Fewer birds. More traffic on the roads but fewer children in town during the day. Things are quieter.

The back, unmowed meadow is obscene: waves of goldenrods and ragweed and milkweed and vetches breaking into brambles and young sumac spears and squat dogwood sprawls, the edges full of vines that smother whatever they’re growing on; you don’t even want to walk into it – it looks like you’d never emerge again; plus the riotous smells, the pollen perfumes and pleasant herbal aromas cut with something dank and musty, in places hints of vinegar and other acidic tangs. And yet with this jungle as a backdrop you notice, in the mowed section of the lawn, that the texture of the grass is different. In the shady sections it’s not growing anymore. The shadows are longer. Mist pools in the valleys on the cool mornings now. If you’ve lived through an autumn in the Northeast before you’d recognize the purples in the Virginia creeper foliage, the first reds in the swamp maple foliage, and see them as a harbinger of what’s about to unfold. But even if you didn’t know this, you’d sense something was afoot.

I guess in human terms September is the intelligently quiet guy or gal in the corner. They don’t say a lot, but when they do speak you lean in because whatever they say will be worth hearing.

  1. Marghi Bean → in Kingston, NH
    Sep 03, 2017

    Thank you for this “on September”.

    I’ve lived in New England all my life.  This is spot on and makes me remember all the seasons and the joys in each.

  2. Linda Gomeau → in Augusta, Maine
    Sep 04, 2017

    Beautiful description of one of my favorite months. Oh, and don’t you think the leaves sound just a little different as September moves in? They sound a bit crisper with a little edge in their voice. I often think it must be some kind of signal to wildlife to get ready for the harsher season ahead.

  3. Carolyn → in East Wallingford, VT
    Sep 09, 2017

    The rapidly shrinking hours of daylight announce the change as much as the sights, sounds, and smells, and critter behavior. But often the weather can be the nicest of the year for enjoying time outdoors.

  4. Michael Baram → in Guilford, VT
    Sep 26, 2017

    This captures so much because it comes from deep within…I would only add that September really begins that mid-August evening when you sense a chill in the night air and start up the wood stove for the first time since spring.

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