A North Country Almanac: September

This monthly sketch is the first in a new series I plan to write, inspired by (and partly in imitation of) Aldo Leopold’s magnificent and significant work, A Sand County Almanac. I do not know nearly as much about my place as Leopold did of his, and I certainly don’t think that my writing is anywhere near the caliber or grace of his; this series, however, is part of my attempt towards changing both of these things.

                    The Changing’s Begin

September is the perfect field-sitting month. The farmers have nearly ended their work in them for the year, and Old Man Winter has not yet begun his. Bales of hay lay scattered throughout the fields, like giant sleeping buffalo that have finished their summer-long grazing and are waiting patiently to be herded into shelter for the winter. Some deer are still at their grazing, however, in the next field over; their white tails wave gently, like three miniature sails adrift in a distant harbor, as they slowly walk away from me towards the trees skirting their field, still unaware of my presence. Overhead, the first of the Canadian geese begin their long flight south, enacting once more their annual migratory trek in response to a primal impulse. Their honking as they wing their way onward sounds fittingly melancholy, heralding the autumnal season. I wonder if the geese families–crammed into their familiar V-formations as they head south–bicker in the same manner that human families do, crammed into minivans and suburbans for long car rides and family trips, headed in any direction.

As the birds begin to migrate, the colors of my county begin to change, too. The trees are starting to don their seasonal costumes; I love especially the deep, deep reds of some trees–almost dark enough to resemble the hue of rich, life-giving blood–and the various oranges and reds which maples are wont to exhibit in their festive leaves. The corn, too, is changing color–that is, the stalks still left standing in the fields are gradually turning from summer green to the golden-brown shade brought on by the first frosts and the stalks drying-out. I love to drive by fields chock-full of these waving, golden stalks–the ghosts of a summer’s growth, but still not without beauty even in their fading and dying.

September also saw the last of the tall, regal sunflowers in our garden; they peaked at the beginning of the month and then, overnight, seem to be rapidly dwindling. They are such majestic and glad creations; if a sunflower were a person, I’m sure I would find them both delightful and fearful to be around, someone who would make me laugh often and heartily, and whom I would feel compelled to take very seriously. The sunflowers may be ducking out, but I saw my first Indian paintbrush the other day: one of my most favorite flowers. (Then again, maybe it was one of the last of those for the year, too, as I haven’t been home for the majority of the summer.)

The amazing, piercingly-clear blue of September skies cannot go unmarked. Many days, crisper ones especially, are crowned by this hallmark tint of the sky. If March is “in like a lion and out like a lamb,” then September surely sails in on the last of the warm, August breezes, still summery–and even hot–during its first days, and then becoming forebodingly chilly during evenings and mornings, and then quickly and quietly finishing its full conversion to autumn as it makes way for October, effecting the rapid change from summer to fall as simply as an acorn falling to the ground: becoming fully ripe, falling, and then resting in lovely simplicity.

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