Slipping Into September

August 29, 2016 Parkway 022


For an area surrounded by rivers, marshes and creeks, you wouldn’t expect us to need rain so badly.  But we’ve not had even a sprinkle since August 9th, and less than 2″ of rain for the entire month of August.  Forgive me if I’m a little giddy that rain finally fills our weekend forecast, beginning sometime this evening!


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Never mind that it is a huge tropical system, which will soon cross Northern Florida before slipping up the East Coast, bringing with it all that a tropical system brings.  We watch the Weather Channel, wistfully waiting for those blobs of green on their radar to make their way to our garden.

Hermine is coming, and will bring us the gift of rain….


The bald Cypress trees are already turning brown and will drop their needles soon. It has been unusually hot this summer, with very little relief from cloudy days or rain.

The bald Cypress trees are already turning brown and will drop their needles soon. It has been unusually hot this summer, with very little relief from cloudy days or afternoon rain.  This is the Chickahominy River at the Southwestern edge of James City County


Waves of deja vu remind me of all the other Septembers which hold memories of approaching tropical systems.  Just as we’re all celebrating the last long weekend of summer and preparing for school to start the day after Labor Day; we’re also watching the storm clouds gather and making our storm preps.


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Early September finds us feeling a little anxious and expectant, a little off-balance maybe; as we know that our immediate future remains a bit uncertain.

Only survivors of storms past fully understand this feeling of mixed expectation and dread.  We’ve entered the heart of our Atlantic Hurricane season, school is about to start, and its election year to boot.... There’s enough heartburn for everyone!


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There were hurricanes and threats of hurricanes many years during the first month of school,  when I was still teaching  school in Tidewater.

Isabel hit on September 18, 2003, when we had been in school for less than 2 weeks.  I was still learning my new students’ names when we had an unplanned ‘vacation’ of more than a week while power was restored, flooding subsided, roads were cleared and repaired, and we slowly returned to our normal routines.


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It was a tough time on us all, but we managed.  And we grew a little savvier about what to expect from these tropical autumn storms.  Once you’ve experienced the storm and its aftermath once, you take care to stock water and batteries, to keep a little extra food on hand, and to watch the ever-changing forecast.  It’s smart to keep a charge on the cell phone and gas in the car, too!

I still flash back to Isabel whenever I eat a bagel.  I bought 2 dozen bagels early in the day when the storm hit, and we ate bagels and fresh oranges over the next several days while the power was out.


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But September, like April, brings dramatic and positive change to our garden.  Summer’s heat melts away into cool mornings and comfortable days, when one is happy to stay outside working well into the afternoon.

The sky turns a particular intense shade of blue.  Summer’s haze and humidity blow out to sea in the brisk September winds which bring us the first real hint of autumn.

There is rain.  The trees recover a bit of vitality.  Fall perennials and wildflowers blossom.  Huge pots of Chrysanthemums appear on neighbors’ porches.


Sweet Autumn Clematis has begun to bloom this week, here near the parking area by the river.

Sweet Autumn Clematis has begun to bloom this week, here near the parking area by the river.


And the best of summer lingers.  The ginger lilies bloom, filling the garden with their perfume.  More and more butterflies arrive.   We settle into a gentler, milder ‘Indian Summer’ which will linger, and ever so slowly transition into our bright, crisp autumn.

September reinvigorates us, too.  We bring fresh energy to the garden as we plant new shrubs, divide perennials, buy Daffodil bulbs and begin to plan ahead for winter.


Spider lilies, also called "Hurricane lily" by some, reward my faithful watering with their buds this week.

Spider lilies, also called “Hurricane lily” by some, reward my faithful watering with their buds this week.  These Lycoris radiata come back each year from bulbs in late August and early September.


Yes, it is September first; and we’re watching a potential hurricane, knowing it might start slipping up the coast, headed towards us and our loved ones within the next couple of days.  We trust that everyone will come through OK, once again.

And we’re also looking past the coming storms towards the rest of September stretching before us, full of beauty and promise.  We’re content to leave summer’s heat behind, and  slip into September once again.


August 26, 2016 spider 009


Photos 4, 5 and 6 for Cee’s Oddball Challenge

Woodland Gnome 2016


August 29, 2016 Spider + Lily 008

Savoring the Sweetness

September 24 2013 garden 034Sometimes I think the bright colors of autumn, we all look so forward to, serve to distract us from what is actually happening.  September 24 2013 garden 003

I sat in the bright, cool morning, under the intensely blue September sky, admiring the Beautyberries and reddening Dogwood leaves, hardly noticing the leaves falling from trees all around me.

A slow walk through the garden is full of tell-tale signs of the approaching winter. September 24 2013 garden 004The butterfly tree is almost bare of flowers now, its bright blue berries disappearing, too, into the mouths of hungry birds. Brown husks where Echinacea bloomed only weeks ago, grasses gone to seed, shriveled leaves on the lawn, and Coreopsis shutting down for the season all hint at the approaching winter chill.

September 24 2013 garden 010Suddenly the Pyracantha berries are turning bright orange, and the inky purple Pokeweed berries with their bright red stems shine along roadside.  We hear the “alarm geese” flying over the house each morning around 7.  The flocks keep sounding larger with each passing week.

A lonely bee is still hanging around the Pentas, Sage, and Coleus.

A lonely bee is still hanging around the Pentas, Sage, and Coleus.

We noticed quite suddenly that the butterflies have disappeared.  It seems only yesterday that they were constant companions on our walks through the garden.  We watched them flying together in wild spirals near the Lantana, covering the butterfly bushes and competing with the hummers for the tastiest blossoms.  Where did they go so suddenly?  And when did it happen?

I was thrilled to find a bee today buzzing from sage blossom to sage blossom, and another on some Pentas.  Where are the rest?  It is as if they all suddenly had their fill of nectar and disappeared, although the buffet of flowers is still generously spread out across the garden for their enjoyment.

Butterfly bush offers its seeds to the hungry birds, its flowers nearly fallen away in the advancing chill of September.

Butterfly Tree offers its seeds to the hungry birds, its flowers nearly fallen away in the advancing chill of September.

Now the garden is quiet, with only the occasional bird call.  Even the grass is growing more slowly.  We hear fewer lawn crews mowing the neighbors’ lawns, and find that our mornings are no longer scheduled around watering, buzzing and mowing.September 12 Parkway 006

It is as if the whole area is breathing a huge sigh of relief.  The humidity has evaporated, and the air is crisp.  Autumn is a restful time as nature begins to shut down and prepare for the silence of winter.  The lush green of summer is dying back to branch and soil, withering to gold and orange, and finally brown, before crumpling to the Earth.  The birds have fewer places to hide.

For so many years of my life I was too busy to notice the slow involution of September.  I was completely engrossed with my classes, whether as student or teacher.  New books to read, fresh syllabi to accomplish, students to learn, classrooms to decorate, stacks of papers and journals to go through, parents to greet, and PTA fundraisers to promote.  By the time I came up for breath summer had already slipped into full orange and brown October.  I missed the quiet beauty of September mornings and this glorious “in between” time as summer makes a graceful exit.

Sept 24 2013 pumpkins 003We bought pumpkins for the front porch today, and a huge Chrysanthemum.  The year progresses in its steady march and continuous change.  I want to savor the sweetness of September a while longer, though.  I’m not quite ready to let go of warm afternoons and the busyness of insects buzzing in the garden, crickets and frogs filling the nights with music, and morning glories in the sharp morning air.  September should be savored, like a delicious Muscadine grape: chewed slowly, tasted thoroughly and appreciated for the delicious and fleeting sweetness it offers.

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All Photos by Woodland Gnome

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Late Summer Purple Haze

We’re a week into September, and finished with the holidays of summer.   Everyone is back in school, from the kids at the College to the home schoolers. You can almost here the hum of brain activity between the diesel rumblings of the school busses each morning and afternoon. Our  mornings are cool and brisk, with … Continue reading

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