Wednesday, August 18, 2010

August to Autumn . . .

I know that's a rather confusing photo above -- what I'm trying to show you is the flower plume on a miscanthus grass in my garden.

See there, below, the vertical pluming line at about centre. . .
What's the big deal, you ask? Same big deal as you might notice if you peer very closely at the Sedum spectabile 'autumn joy' pictured below. Can't see it yet?

Well, let's look a bit more closely. . .
Those wee pink centres revealed as the teeny individual buds open . . .

Soon, that whole flowerhead will be a rich rosy hue, living up to the plant's name -- Autumn Joy -- and heralding the start of fall. Heralding the new season just like those plumes on the grasses. I know these signs well, now, from so many preceding years -- I know that before too long, the plumes will dominate the grass, and they'll be festooned with spiderwebs, themselves decked out with dewdrops while their fat predatory inhabitant readies herself for winter. Yes, I've already tumbled myself imaginatively right smack into winter, all thanks to a few feathery spikes on a clump of grass and some teeny-tiny dabs of pink on a fleshy perennial.
I'm particularly sensitive to these portents of cooler, shorter days because I was working on campus today. I picked up a new parking permit, organized a pile of material that must be read before some hiring meetings I have to attend next week, and bought my new academic-year day-planner. I also realized that my book order for the term's courses is missing an important text, and, worse, that the error was my own!
Ah well, the books have been ordered and will probably make it in time for the second week or so of classes. And when I got home, Pater had embarked on his brand new hobby -- breadmaking! -- so there were good smells in place. And there were children playing on the beach and people swimming and I went in as well and had a deliciously cooling swim. So while summer is on its way out, it is still with us for the moment. I'm going to make the most of it each day, even though I'm joining the working folk again.
The words "August" and "Autumn" used to confuse me, when I was young, because they look and sound fairly similar, and they refer to something that seemed almost the same to me -- and yet when I replaced "Autumn" with its synonym "Fall," the similarity turned to difference. August/Summer: : Autumn/Fall. We often speak of September as feeling more like a New Year than January does, what with the start of the school year, the end of summer freedom. That may be so, but I'm more intrigued by the transitions -- and, yes, the portents -- of August/Autumn. Perhaps because I'm rather at an August/Autumn place myself, life-wise, reaping the harvests, the benefits, but aware they're not unlimited.
So for the next few weeks, when I'm not preparing course outlines, sitting in on hiring interviews, and attending department and faculty and committee meetings, I'll be picking blackberries, reading in the hammock, having G&Ts on the patio, and swimming, swimming, swimming. What plans do you have for making the most of summer?


  1. This has always been my favorite of Shakespeare's sonnets. I don't mind being in the late summer of my life. The aches and pains and physical weakening is annoying, but I still don't mind.

  2. I get a feeling of melancholy in late garden is getting ready to fade and work is calling my name...
    boating season is coming to a close and the weather gets foggy and cooler.

    You sound like you are meeting things head on armed with books and G&T's and the hammock...

  3. I'm always amazed by the variety and sheer prodigiousness of your garden!

    I find August to be a frustrating month. Tail end of summer, gearing up for le petit monsieur's school year, but nothing to look foward to weatherwise except weeks of intermittent blasts of serious heat.

    Still, I saw some bronze mums at Trader Joe's the other day, a sure sign of autumn!

  4. Mater, I have a completely non-autumn question for you, regarding knitting. Actually, it is autumn related - have you got the Fall issue of Interweave Knits? I saw a pic of a scarf in Knitting Daily and I can't for the life of me remember what it was called - but I think it was a Moebius lace design, knitted in lace weight yarn. Just wondering if I've got that right, so I can either wait for the mag to come out here or order it online. Thanks!

  5. My sedums are almost at that place, but not quite. They are one of the joys of Autumn. Such an interesting post, and an interesting place August/Autumn on so many levels. I love that August is the season when the nights are cool again and summer is definitely on the wane, but it is also the season for raspberries and blackberries, and the time when the heirloom tomatoes are finally ripening even as the plants are no longer setting fruit and are beginning to die back. It remind me of the joys of being at that Autumn place, and how ripeness and the fullness wisdom and creativity are so close to decline. Oops, I'm wandering off again.

  6. You and Mardel are on opposite coasts, but of one mind today!

    I too get very melancholy and pensive at this time of year, though I LOVE fall most of all and it makes me energetic because of the chill and the need to cook everything.

    Late summer though, it's transitional in a languid way.

    I also find that each spring I feel the same feeling - a lightening, a bounce, the rush of everything.

    Maybe we're programmed, no matter our age.

  7. LPC: I agree, that's a powerful and lovely sonnet.
    I'm feeling more and more as if I'm in the autumn, not just late summer, of my life, and it's not so bad.
    Hostess: Tick, tick, tick . . . That day after Labour Day will soon be here. Meanwhile, have the last bits of summer and savour them, right?

  8. Pseu: I'm curious about what kinds of weather and/or vegetation changes mark your area's turn to autumn, if any. I don't like being really cold, but I think I'd miss that first October frost.
    Tiffany: I haven't picked that issue up yet -- but I know Mardel has it -- if she doesn't see this comment, perhaps leave her a note on her blog.
    Mardel: I loved your post today, as you know! but what strikes me most in your comment here is that you have raspberries ripening at the same time as blackberries -- we've got blackberries here, but my raspberries are always ready in June, with a few late bloomers to harvest in July. Interesting difference.

  9. K-Line: I know! I was so struck by that synchronicity when I read Mardel's lovely post this a.m.
    I think you're right about the programming -- makes sense that there would be some cellular messaging that tells us to get ready for some serious dark, cold times (and, in the spring, that we can relax enough to get out there and look for new sprouts to eat). For me, having seen kids off to school for something like 22 Septembers, then being a grad student forever, and now teaching, my falls are always marked by a return to a more fixed schedule after the relative freedom of summer. So it's the weather, yes, but it's also the different lifestyle. That lifestyle brings some positives, though -- I get to dress up a bit more, get back to textures that I love, and there's a different kind of socializing that happens through and at work. It's all good, as my son says . . .


I'd love to hear your response to my post. Agree, disagree, even go off on a tangent, I love to know you're out there, readers. Let's chat, shall we? I apologize, though, for the temporary necessity of the Word Verification -- spam comments have been tiresomely numerous lately, and I'm hoping to break that pattern.

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