Is the summer really over?
Technically, no. The autumnal equinox won’t occur until 10:49 a.m. Eastern time on Sept. 22, 2012. But it certainly feels like summer has left the building and slammed the door.
The kids are back at school and brining home strep throat. Football has resumed. There’s a chill in the morning air. Dew collects on the lawn and weeds more thickly. It seems like the angle of the sunlight is noticeably different. Maybe that’s just lower humidity or reduced pollen or something my brain has manufactured, but if seems like there has been a dramatic shift in the world.
Why is it so hard to let go of summer? Songwriter Mickey Newberry captured that feeling in his much-recorded song, The Thirty-Third of August:
It’s the 33rd of August
And I’m finally touching down.
Eight days from Sunday
Finds me Saturday bound.
When you start counting August days past the 31st, you’re really high, or really in denial, or both. But the spirit of that desire—to keep summer with us—is undeniably strong for me. And grounded in reality.
When summer yields to fall, some very bad things happen. Gardens grow old and die. Frost comes. Ice comes. Snow comes—or at least, the rumors of it haunt our nights.
Those of you who have read “The Seeds of Spring” or have followed this blog have observed how viscerally I love summer and hate fall. Perhaps you have commiserated as I lament the death of this sprawling tomato vine or that six-foot dahlia. And no doubt you are expecting me to launch into one of my predictable rants about how crappy this time of year is for gardeners.
Sorry, folks. Been there. Done that. Time to move on.
Am I ill, you might ask. Or too muddled by age and stress to dare to speak the truth burning in what’s left of my heart? Have I really turned traitor to the concept that, when it comes to the end of a gardening season, one should not go gently into that good night?
Maybe so. Or maybe my career and life have changed so much in the past year that I really am beginning to see the glass 10 percent full rather than 90 percent empty.
Yes, I am much happier these days. There’s no denying it. Instead of being stuck on the toll road with a complaining bladder and then waiting and waiting for that Blue Line train to show up, I’m spending that 90 minutes most mornings walking on the Washington & Old Dominion trail, dodging emaciated cyclists and wildlife. In the past month I have witnessed a bald eagle, a fox and uncounted deer.
The most recent deer encounter was particularly interesting. First, the mother sprinted across the trail. Right behind came two young ones. But rather than diving into the woods, the mother stopped and turned to look at me from a distance of about 50 feet.
At first, I just assumed that she was assessing the danger I posed to her and her two offspring. While I’m not normally a violent person, I have been known to launch into tirades when my satellite carrier drops AMC or my favorite team drops an easy popup.
But after moment, it seemed like the connection between Mom and myself had more to it than your typical “deer in the headlights” scenario. With her two youngsters already under cover of foliage, she continued to stare me down from a spot near the edge of the underbrush. No “grunts,” as some deer will do when they are frightened. Not the usual tension, as if she was ready to run full speed all the way to Toledo the first time I blinked.
No, she seemed to be checking me out. I began to imagine the line of thought that consumed her for those seconds as we stood still, eyes locked. Several possibilities came to mind:
Option 1: “Wow. Maybe it’s the season, but I’m seeing a lot more humans these days than usual during my morning walks. I suppose they are over-populating.”
Option 2: “I think I’ve seen this one before. Looks like he’s really putting on weight and losing hair. Maybe it’s a fall thing for his species.”
Option 3: “Sure wish I had a gun.”
I broke the spell by moving on. She turned to her children and resumed the business of survival.
Encounters like this, and having very few meetings to attend, definitely make fall a little less miserable.
Of course, not everyone is sad to see the summer leave. And there are parts of fall that are really lovely.
But real gardeners always shed a silent tear when frost savages what’s left of their summer plants. I know I will, this year and every year.
The trick is to look ahead. As long as you don’t wake up dead, there’s always another gardening season out there to look forward to—eventually.
Enjoy the season!