By Hal Borlnd
September is more than a month, really; it is a season, an achievement in itself. It begins with August's leftovers and it ends with October's preparations, but along the way it achieves special satisfactions. After summer's heat and haste, the year consolidates itself. Deliberate September-in its own time and tempo---begins to sum up another summer.
With September comes a sense of autumn. It creeps in on a misty dawn and vanishes in the hot afternoon. It tiptoes through the treetops, rouging a few leaves, then rides a tuft of thistledown across the valley and away. It sits on a hilltop and hoots like an October owl in the dusk. It plays tag with the wind. September is a challenging busy as a squirrel in a hickory tree, idle as a languid brook. It is summer's ripeness and richness fulfilled.
Some of the rarest days of the year come in the September season-days when it is comfortably cold but pulsing with life, when the sky is clear and clean, the air crisp, the wind free of dust. Meadows still smell of hay and the sweetness of cut grass. September flowers are less varied than those of May but so abundant that they make September another flowery month. Goldenrod comes by mid-August, but rises to a peak of golden abundance in early September. Late thistles make spectacular purple accents. And asters blossom everywhere, along the roadsides, in meadows, on the hilltops, even in city lots, raging in color from pure white through all degrees of lavender to the royal New England purple.
We think of spring as the miracles time, when opening bud and new leaf proclaim the persistence of life. But September is when the abiding wonder makes itself know in a subtler way. Now growth comes to annual fruition, and preparations are completed for another year, another generation. The action ripens and the hickory nut matures. The plant commits its future to the seed and the root. The insect stows tomorrow in the egg and pupa. The surge is almost over and life begins to relax.
The green prime is passing. The trees begin to proclaim the change. Soon the leaves will be discarded, the grass will sere. But the miracle of life persists, the mysterious germ of growth and renewal that is the seed itself.
This is the season of the harvest moon. With reasonably clear skies it will be a moonlit week, for the harvest moon is not hasty; it comes early and stays late. There was a time when the busy farmer could return to the fields after supper and continue his harvest by moonlight. There's still harvesting to be done, but much of it now centers on the Kitchen, the late sweet corn, the tomatoes, the root vegetables. The canning, the preserving, the freezing, the kitchen harvest in all its variety, reaches its peak.
First frost comes in the night, a clear, scant-started night when the moon is near its fullness. It comes without a whisper, quiet as thistledown, brushing the comer of a hillside garden. Dawn comes and you see its path-the glistening leaf, the gloaming stem, the limp, blackening garden vine.
Another night or two the frost walks the valleys in the moonlight. Then it goes back beyond the northern hills to wait a little longer, and the golden mildness of early autumn comforts the land. A faint anise smell is on the air, goldenrod scent. The mist swirls and September sun shines through the deep-blue sky of September.