Night sweeps in earlier each evening, and the sudden change to a chilly house in the mornings is a surprise to me. September is usually still a warm month here, but it won’t be for the next ten days or so I’ve read. I decided to embrace autumn, stockpiling autumn candles that remind me of the woods ablaze with color, when only the pine trees kept their steadfast green. I miss the woods up north at this time of year, but trips aren’t really in vogue these days, so I’ll stay where some trees are shrugging off their dusty, too dry leaves, knowing others won’t turn vermillion until November.
I’m nostalgic for the days when every leaf changed at the same moment. That doesn’t happen here, so I create autumn in my home and my heart. Today I found the largest potted orange mums I have ever seen and bought them right away, adding some cute pumpkins with tall, thin stems that will look nice on the porch. I’m not ready to give into fall completely, and I adore those brave crickets who manage to stave off the frosts and live to tell their stories until November.
Are there rules to September? Am I allowed to sleep with the windows open, only to turn on the furnace in the morning? Just for a half-hour. I savor each season as it’s handed out, which is so unlike my impetuous and impatient youth, where I waded through autumn and winter as if they were to be endured and not enjoyed. Not so now. Even those long January nights can carry warmth, love and laughter.
So I’m pulling you with me, into opening your eyes to the feast laid before us, or the one to come. Yes, the sun slips lower now, but that sweet September blue is back, and oh how the white wisps of clouds look perfectly content to sail high in the sky now that the haze has diminished. I know. It’s permanently hazy in the West, and I don’t want to hear of a hurricane. I need to know why the west is burning and can we please make it stop? The last time I was in the Northwest fires blazed, and none of us saw the mountains surrounding us. They stayed obscured, and I felt like I walked through apocalyptic days with the sun barely penetrating the daylight gloom.
We can find happiness even then. Maybe not outdoors, but maybe so. I never saw the mountains on that trip, but I marveled at the gorgeous gardens, the homes built on hilltops, the thrumming of the Native Americans in the evenings just across the bay, and the shops that welcomed me as I made my way across the main streets. And did you know I stumbled across the most magical thing there? A tiny library for free. It was a very little cupboard on a post, telling people to take a book or leave one to share.
If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is. Books. I love words and the way authors place them perfectly into sentences that haunt me for years. Words flavor my life, and I carry some books, read long ago, in my heart forever. Seeing that perfect little invitation to take a book, and right next to the most beautiful garden perched against a simple, humble one-story home tells me magic exists anywhere. We just have to look for it.
Even in this season of smoke. Even when the weather is much cooler than anticipated. Even when a hurricane brings too much rain. Especially then, don’t you think? We can find pockets of pretty in the middle of almost anything. Every sport under the sun is being played at the same time, after months of nothing, to the point where we watched two people playing corn hole on ESPN. Now we have a feast, and isn’t it fun? I love football, baseball and basketball, but my hockey-long family is gorging on that. Every sport is trying to make it work, and I am mesmerized at how resourceful we humans can be when hard pressed!
One summer when I lived up north in a place called Wauwatosa, I spent much of my spare time painting the trim around the windows of our bungalow. One day I decided to have rice for lunch, so I set it to simmer when I spied the paint and paintbrush waiting for me by the kitchen’s back door. I picked up my toddler and took her outside to play while I methodically applied brilliant white paint to the freshly scraped wood trim.
While I perched precariously on that ladder, I heard the somewhat far off sound of a car alarm or siren of some sort. After five minutes or so of the relentless siren’s scream, I wondered if the source might be coming from inside my house. Was I ever shocked to discover the kitchen smoke alarm blaring as smoke billowed from the pot of rice! My self-diagnosed ADD had kicked in, and I had forgotten all about that rice. I had been in such a hurry to finish the painting, because September had arrived and I knew the number of warm days were winding down. Rain and cold typically took over by the end of that month.
I spent that gorgeous afternoon opening every window, turning on the fans not yet placed in storage, and I scrubbed the pot until I realized I had no choice but to throw it out. In the evening when my husband came home, he walked in the door and started laughing. “Burnt rice again?” was all he said, and I shamefully nodded my head yes. It’s family lore now, all the times I forgot about the rice on the stove and scorched it instead. Finally, one day my husband bought me a rice cooker, and I’ve never burnt another pot of rice again. Just don’t ask about the time I forgot about the bacon. And I did.
September brings an urgency to complete so many outdoor tasks, and back then I spent my poorer days painting. Now it’s more about making sure we have wood stacked, and bulbs planted and leaves raked, but here I have until the end of October to finish. Somehow all the Septembers of my younger years have imprinted a more hurried approach, and any chance to be outside is refreshing and welcome.
I’m sending you our blue skies from the Midwest, the Ohio River Valley as they say here. Grab a fistful of flowers and bring them inside, burn those summer or autumn candles (inside, of course), hit up a movie at the drive-in, savor the simplicity of vanilla soft serve ice cream. Play your favorite music until it surrounds and imbues your mood. I always love The Boys of Summer and play it endlessly each autumn. Take care of you right now. Others always, but in the middle of everything or nothing, remember you matter. Find the beauty in you. It’s there. Then find the magic out there, waiting for you.
I’m wishing you all the happiness your heart can hold…
Until next time,