A Grace Period

(Click to enlarge)

Had T.S. Eliot lived in coastal Texas, he might have chosen August rather than April to be his cruelest month: bringing, as August does, a wasteland of over-heated concrete, limp vegetation, and silent birds.

Picking lethargically at their food, the birds show little more interest in the world around them than their increasingly silent, sighing human companions. Caught between memories of the delicate, blooming spring and desire for October’s cooling winds, spirits grow dull, insensate: failing to revive even when washed by overheated rain.

Coastal summers have their pleasures, to be sure, but those pleasures evoke a certain ambivalence.  No carefree romp through soft, bending grasses here, or long, pensive walks along cooling shores. More commonly, summer ends as a grimly determined march through heat and humidity, interspersed with episodes of cabin fever associated with too much time in overly air-conditioned buildings. 

Still, there are moments. A bit of dew sparkling on morning grass betokens cooler nights. A ripple of birdsong catches the breeze, then flies away into silence. Shades at the window take on a different tilt, and from seemingly impenetrable walls of green, bits of red and yellow yield to gravity, circling back to earth’s receptive soil.

On such mornings, Summer turns like a waking child: lazy, but willing to consider the day. Her visit nearly ended, she rises to ready herself for leave-taking — a subtle and nearly silent process unmarked by the inattentive.

Some have seen that preparation, and taken time to record its gentle necessities. Emily Dickinson’s recognition of Summer’s departure, and acknowledgement of the graces overflowing the interstices between seasons, invites us to remember that grace as well. As a gardener, she experienced Summer’s leaving. As a poet, she captured it, and held it forever.

The Summer lapsed away —
Too imperceptible at last
To seem like Perfidy —
A Quietness distilled
As Twilight long begun,
Or Nature spending with herself
Sequestered Afternoon —
The Dusk drew earlier in —
The Morning foreign shone —
A courteous, yet harrowing, Grace
As Guest that would be gone —
And thus, without a Wing
Or service of a Keel
Our Summer made her light escape
Into the Beautiful.
                               ~ Emily Dickinson

I photographed the still-unidentified lily (perhaps Zephyranthes pulchella (yellow rain lily), or perhaps Habranthus tubispathus (copper lily), at the Dudley Nature Center in League City on August 27.
As always, comments are welcome.

93 thoughts on “A Grace Period

  1. I am, of course, not very familiar with your seasonal changes. Here in the Northeast the change can be abrupt but more often there is much overlap and all of a sudden we realize it is no longer summer. And foliage is not a good indicator this year as the drought is causing an early change which has started in some locations already although not the way most folks picture fall in New England. The hill I drive by twice a day has had many trees already change but not with color but straight to brown. Anyone thinking of visiting to take in the color may be disappointed if waiting until the usual dates. And then there is Indian Summer which often is a harsh reminder of the heat left behind. Who knows how that will play out this year.

    Dickinson had a wonderful way of putting thoughts into words. One of these days I will visit her home and record that for you. Hard to believe I have lived in Amherst for around 50 or so years and never visited her home or gravesite. I am a cultural slacker!

      1. Thanks. This is the first time I’ve seen this particular flower, and there was exactly one of them to see. I was so excited, I made some kids come over and look at it. If today’s rains ever stop, I’m going to go back and see if more have appeared.

    1. The kind of foliage change you describe — from green, to brown, to ground — reminds me of our drought years. And it seems to me that the overlap of seasons you mentioned is exactly what Dickinson was pondering. It’s not just that signs of fall are appearing, it’s that signs of a lingering, lovely summer are becoming more obvious, too. It’s a lovely mix, but it’s also true that one of these days, we’ll all turn around and say, “Where did it go?”

      Indian summer always has been my favorite season (or sub-season, perhaps). We don’t have it here, of course, but October’s still our best month. The phrase was recorded in “Letters From an American Farmer,” a 1778 work by the French-American soldier turned farmer, J. H. St. John de Crèvecoeur. He wrote,

      “Then a severe frost succeeds, which prepares it to receive the voluminous coat of snow which is soon to follow; though it is often preceded by a short interval of smoke and mildness, called the Indian Summer.”

      If you do happen by the Dickinson home, you can skip the parlor and just photograph the gardens. That would be just fine by me.

  2. That’s twice in one day I’ve had Emily Dickinson quoted at me, not that I mind. A little Dickinson always goes down a treat.

    We are rainy here and cool. The rain is welcome after weeks of dry heat. I’ve been listening to Henry Mancini and shelving CDs. A day of furious activity coming at the end of a week of inactivity. The time of harvest has begun, and The Wheel of the Year is turning toward the feast of the second harvest (the first harvest (fruit) is the Feast of Apples which falls on 1 Aug, The second harvest (grain) is the Feast of Bread which falls on the Equinox. The third harvest (when you slaughter the animals you know you won’t be able to feed over the winter and feast on what you can’t preserve) is Samhain, 31 October). We are less than a month away from the the Autumnal equinox when Fall begins.

    1. It’s been raining here all day, too: sometimes harder and sometimes lighter, but always enough to dictate indoor activity. If you’re down to the CDs, it sounds as though you’re nearly settled. Either that or you’re tired of big projects and decided to treat yourself to a small one.

      When does the cotton harvest fall in the calendar? I thought of you the other day when I realized I’d never seen a cotton flower. The bolls, yes, but not those amazing flowers, or their progression through multiple colors. I’ve got it on my calendar for next spring: see cotton flowers.

      I’ve been noticing the movement of the sun. It’s traveled far enough south now that I can’t see it when I’m sitting at my desk. Once we reach the equinox, life on the docks is far more bearable. As for Samhain, the retailers may never have heard of it, but they’re stocking like mad for Halloween. It’s a wonder the marketing geniuses haven’t discovered all those other feasts. There might be money in them-thar harvests.

  3. August is forest fire season here, which has become an annual occurrence. Up until a couple of days ago, we’ve been lucky. There is no fire within striking distance, but we woke up yesterday with the smoke rolling in from a northern California fire. I suspect neither T.S. Eliot or Emily Dickinson would have kind words to say about the situation.A couple of weeks ago we had intense heat, up to 110 F, but I much prefer that to the smoke. Normally I’d be off at Burning Man facing dust storms now. They rise up into the sky, create zero visibility, and develop 40-50 mile winds. I prefer them to the smoke as well. –Curt

    1. I’m sorry to hear about the smoke, but happy to know you’re not affected by fire. A fellow who comments here (montucky, whose ice-covered buttercup I posted) is on the edge of the Copper King fire in Montana. I know from years of reading his blog that some of the back country he loves is either burning or under threat, and there have been evacuations. The last I heard, the fire was moving away from him. I hope it still is.

      I read a *most interesting* article about BM last week, and thought of you. I thought it amusing that contention arose in the past over turnkey camps. Even more amusing was the “we never meant for equality to mean sameness” argument from the founder, whose name escapes me. Of course, BM can be an easy target, and I confess that, by the time I finished reading, some of the excesses were more than I could stand. But of course, I feel the same way about too many gingerbread-trimmed houses in a row, and baroque decoration of any sort, so there you are.

      I should remember, but don’t. Did you experience any truly severe, haboob-level dust storms in the Panhandle? Every now and then the Lubbock NWS office tweets out a photo of one of those things, and I feel much better about humidity.

  4. I almost wish I hadn’t read this blog entry because you did such a good job of describing the late August changes and I prefer not to acknowledge the end of summer is near. Instead, I’d like to strangle Mother Nature until she agrees to let the birds stay around, the flowers to continue to bloom and the crispiness of fall stay in Canada with the moose and brown bears.

    1. Jimmy Buffett got it right. A change in latitude certainly can bring a change in attitude, and I rarely see that more clearly than when it comes to the seasons. You’re singing “Stay, Just a Little Bit Longer” to summer, while we’re trying to move things along with a chorus of “Hurry Sundown.” Of course, if I had your winter to contend with, I might feel differently. Long, hot summers seem interminable, but I’ve gone through the frozen car locks routine, and don’t intend to go back.

      What I do love is the turning of any season. There are little hints and whispers of coming attractions that are so delightful, and the novelty of a plant or a bird out of place or out of time always brings a smile.

  5. I do think August is my least favorite month of the year. Summers are so long in Texas. When August dawns you know you still have it, plus September, and perhaps October before the weather begins to feel like fall. Flowers are usually spent by August. A sad month indeed.

    1. I agree with you about August. The worst experience for me is having an early cool front in September, and then going back to the heat. You get a taste of the good life, remember what it’s like, and then it’s snatched away and everyone becomes even more morose. I’d much rather have it stay hot, until it decides to be cooler.

      I’ve never been in your part of the country, but my impression is that things are less uncomfortable there. True, you just had a spate of hot weather, but generally, it seems to be enjoyable. When I lived in the SF Bay area, there were times when I found the weather almost boring. Day in and day out — nothing but blue skies and 70 degrees. I began hankering for change of some sort: any sort!

  6. This is such a wonderful piece of writing.
    I would not have thought to transition from The Waste Land to Emily Dickinson, but it feels very natural and appropriate. I don’t know if there’s a term for a composition in between an essay and a poem, but you obviously took care over each word, and this is excellent.

    I moved from Milwaukee to Chile, and will be back in NY by late December — going through three winters in a row. So in another half-year, I will be thinking about the transition from winter to spring, and will pay attention, and appreciate it, even more than usual!
    cheers, Frosty.

    1. Ah, ha! That move to Chile explains the attention to Spanish. I hope it’s been a good experience, and less harrowing in certain respects than your visit to Taichung.

      The Eliot-Dickinson transition felt natural to me, too. I wasn’t sure in the beginning exactly how they fit together, but it seemed to work. The Dickinson poem always has been one of my favorites. I suppose it’s the reference to sailing: the keel is obvious, but the “wing” is a reference to a sail. I’ll bet you know that the smoothest — albeit difficult — sailing is dead downwind, with main and jib spread “wing and wing.”

      Enjoy the coming months, and your return to NY. By the time you get back, I’ll have my training behind me and be serving as a volunteer at a local nature center. As a matter of fact, when I was taking some photos of the flower up above, I met an interpreter from the same center who stopped to chat. I thought of you, and how interesting your observations about your experience were. I’m looking forward to it.

  7. Lovely reading. Our summer is lasting quite a long time here so far, it normally goes cold towards the second half of August – then has a spurt an Indian Summer at the beginning of September. Broad August is doing quite well this year, but “The Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” will be upon us sooner than we imagine.

    1. What a wonderful phrase: “the season of mists and mellow fruitfulness.” One of my favorite fall flowers is the blue mistflower. It’s such a butterfly magnet, and stays long enough to provide nourishment even for stragglers. I don’t think it requires mist to bloom, but it’s a delightful flower, nonetheless.

      Your garden looks so good, now. Conditions clearly have favored it. My friend in Wales is ecstatic that the sun has stayed out for more than ten minutes at a time. She’s brought in a bit of a crop from her garden, and intends to eat well –at least for a while.

      I’m surprised to hear you use the phrase “Indian summer.” I didn’t realize it had been adopted abroad. It is a wonderful season. I’m glad to know you have it, too.

    1. I’m not sure what the “in” destinations are, but I do know that the marinas and yacht clubs grow exceedingly quiet during August. It’s not only hot, it’s often windless, so sailing and cruising aren’t very enjoyable. Some go off to places like Wyoming, or Colorado, which makes sense: although I heard this year that Colorado was as hot as Texas. Minnesota’s an occasional choice.

      If I’m able, I prefer to work through August and travel in October. Schools are in session, tourists are fewer, and the chance to return to the midwest during its prettiest season always is a joy.

  8. And, as has happened this year, you find the heat accompanying days and days of overcast and rain, you feel even more put upon by mother nature. Though, to see spring colors still in August is a miracle in and of itself.

    Folks in other parts of the country haven’t a clue…A friend in Virginia was saying just last week how he appreciated these early fall days and I was floored to think that somewhere the seasons were actually changing already, Hearing talk of goldenrod blooming and leaves turning color at the end of August just seems so wrong to this Texans’ ear…

    1. Gary, it wasn’t so many days ago that NWSHouston noted that, this August, Hobby broke the record for the most consecutive days of rain: thirteen. Now, that’s gloomy. Of course, by the time the rain started, we needed some, but I think it would be fine for it to stop — at least for a while. Were you part of that flash flooding that affected Lake Jackson and Freeport last weekend? You may have been far enough east to escape.

      I’ve been seeing photos of goldenrod in places like Michigan. it does seem strange, doesn’t it? On the other hand, I found a huge patch of snow-on-the-prairie this weekend, so things are moving along. At this point, I’m more interested in water temperature than anything else. A month’s a very long time in The Season™. Here’s to cooler temperatures — and cooler water!

      1. Over the past eight or nine days we pulled in almost seven inches with a one day total of 2.5. But, sitting a hundred yards up slope from Mustang Bayou, we generally miss most of the real high water.

  9. Although our summers are always temperate – sometimes too temperate – I also do not bewail its leaving. It is a ‘nothing’ season here, it lacks the promise of spring and the reflection of autumn. Mostly it is the season, at the end of which English people say “What happened to summer this year?” Every year they hope for a sunny one and they so rarely get it. 1976 was the hot one, everyone old enough remembers it.
    Sad, really.

    I like spring and autumn better, seasons that have a purpose.

    1. I have a friend who always speaks of her garden as being ‘tired’ in August, and I think that may pick up on your notion of it being a ‘nothing’ season. Part of the problem may be that there’s a good bit going on, but we’re tired, too, and not so eager to be out and about, exploring nature’s offerings — particularly in the heat.

      Your comment about spring and autumn being seasons with a purpose started me thinking: what, really, is the purpose of August? What’s happening? Two things came to mind. One is the feeding and flocking of birds, in preparation for migration. The other is the formation of seeds — plants quietly going about their business in order to propagate their species and feed the creatures around them.

      But for humans? August often does seem a stagnant pond, rather than a running brook, or sparkling lake.

  10. I don’t think I would ever get accustomed to the persistent heat and humidity of the summers in the south. We get some of that in the midwest, as you know firsthand. But, it doesn’t last. The spell is often broken by a gust of cool and drier Canadian air. Then, we have several days of nearly perfect weather.

    The autumn months of late Sep to early Nov are my favorites with spring close behind.

    1. I have a dear friend who travels to Minnesota every summer for an extended visit. She delights in providing me with regular bulletins on the temperature and humidity. It’s the meteorological version of “If you’ve got it, flaunt it,” I suppose. But what you say is true. A hot spell differs from a hot season in any number of ways.

      I’m with you in preferring autumn and spring. Winter on the coast can be pure pleasure, too, especially when it’s all blue skies and sunshine.

  11. The end of August heralds the beginning of warmer weather. Soon the grasses will start to grow and lawnmowers will be taken out of the shed. The rattle of garden equipment waking suburbia’s slumber on a regular basis.

    Still, there is spring in the steps of keen walkers along our small flowing creek running behind the houses. Ducks are sitting on eggs or following their tiny brood keeping a keen look-out for our Jack Russell, Milo. He always gets excited when near the birds and pulls on the lead, obsessed with wanting to chase them out of their homey reeds. He knows they are there.

    Spring will be here in just two days.

    1. I thought of all you folks down under when I was writing this. Geography may not be destiny, but it surely does shape how we experience the world, and the differences among us can be significant. Still, there’s as much excitement to your hatching ducks and newly-oiled lawn equipment as there is to our falling leaves and fresh winds. I suspect it’s the change, the movement, that joins us in appreciation of these quite different seasons.

      And Milo, of course. There’s much for him to appreciate in your new season, including an increased willingness of his people to be out and about. Good that you have him to come along and supervise!

  12. I have several blogging friends in Europe and they, too, are relentlessly eager for the arrival of autumn. I try to keep reminding them not to rush things, that we should enjoy what we have while we have it, and try to appreciate it to its fullest, and in the northern hemisphere, autumn doesn’t officially start until September 22.

    I freely admit that I’ve never experienced a Texas summer. I did, however, spend a year in Manhattan, Kansas, and I very clearly remember one 5-day period when the temperature never dropped below 105 F, day or night. I’ve tried to forget what that was like ever since. And I’ve almost succeeded.

    We spend a lot of time in northern Minnesota, as you know, and the first real sign, for me, that fall is on the way, is when the lush, green bracken fern starts to wither and turn brown. And as of a few days ago, there was no sign of that. I’ll be traveling north again in a few weeks, and it might well have changed by then.

    Please don’t misunderstand me–I really do love autumn. It’s peak for color, up there, is usually the first week in October. I will be there for that, you can count on that–and on a full report. And, really, It’s not that far off.

    1. I agree that we should enjoy what we have while we have it, but from time to time, enjoyment becomes difficult. That’s when a switch to ‘appreciation’ can be helpful. I suspect the times that require a switch from ‘appreciation’ to ‘endurance’ are the ones that bring about a visceral longing for autumn.

      You, trying to forget that Kansas heat, brought to mind advice I’ve been given in places as widely separated as Liberia and Texas. “Don’t think about it,” my survival coaches said. “If you think about it, it only will get worse. Do what you need to cope, but just don’t think.” It was effective advice, when I could put it into practice. I can be good at not thinking in other circumstances — often to my chagrin — but when it comes to the heat? Not so easy.

      Despite everything, we are nearly to September. Every day does seem to pass more quickly than the last. I’m looking forward to your photos of October.

  13. Lovely words and oh my how you can weave a spell with such eloquent descriptions of August heat.

    Now, Linda I am amused and bemused ( one and the same, I suppose) by you calling the twilight of summer’s end, as a grace period. I have yet to see or feel anything remotely graceful about the weather in August and approaching fall in roughly three weeks. :-)

    August has always been a rough month for me. I get very dizzy which I attribute to allergies from something that blooms in August. And, oh my goodness, to say nothing of the awful heat. However, the temps are tapering off to around 90-92 or so and that is a good thing.

    Excellent photo of the yellow flower. My only wish is that you had shown more of it.

    1. Here you are: another, fuller view of the flower, just for you. I really like the more abstract version, and thought it fit well with the poem. The view looks to me like a sail at its attachment point to a boat: the “wing” that Dickinson mentions.

      What brought “grace period” to mind as a title was the sudden reappearance of bits of spring and summer: trifoliate orange blossoms, a pair of Texas dandelions, and so on. It’s as though they felt they’d been given a second chance to bloom — a “grace period” in the midst of August heat.

      I’m not much bothered by fall allergies. The ligustrum in spring is what bothers me, and a mysterious something that comes in on a strong southwest wind during the summer. But heat is heat, and like you, I’m glad it’s easing a bit. The good news is that air conditioning can help with allergies, too!

      1. Habranthus tubispathus (copper rain lilly) is what it seems but I’m not sure. Has anyone offered their opinion of what it is? I saw some blooming in the grass near the church that is across from my son’s house. I don’t consider myself an expert on plants. I only know most of what I’ve seen locally and my memory is not so hot since I’ve not been on any wildflower field trips in 30 years. I agree that the abstract version looks like a sail. Very clever cropping, Linda.

        1. I know the copper lily is more common, and Steve Schwartzman seems to think that’s what I found. But there are yellow rain lilies in Texas. Two species, found only in Goliad, Refugio, and San Patricio counties, are listed in the Nature Conservancy’s Conservation Action Plan for the prairie there.

          I’m certain my lily isn’t one of those, but Z.Pulchella shows up a little closer to home, as well as on a list of plants endemic to Texas, where it’s described as a plant of “seasonally wet areas on the coastal plain of South Texas.” We’re not South Texas, but we surely are coastal plane, and seasonally wet, so who knows? In the end, I don’t care which I found, but it would be neat to pin it down one way or another. I went back yesterday and marked it. Now, I’m waiting to see if some leaves appear, and to see what the seed looks like.

  14. Here the end of summer brings mixed feelings. There is still so much to be done before winter and yet we long for the snows to come and extinguish the fires that seem to be suddenly everywhere this year.

    1. The combination of the need to prepare for winter with the need to cope with such destructive fires has to be extraordinarily difficult, both practically and emotionally.

      One of the great values of the InciWeb site is the look it gives into the inner workings of fire containment — particularly the number of people involved. While the rest of the country goes its way, obsessing over whatever bit of gossipy red meat the media serves up, there are real heroes out there, doing work that most of our so-called ‘leadership’ would run from. And that’s all I’ll say about that.

      I see a red flag warning’s been posted for today. Best of luck, and thanks for the photos.

  15. This essay is a splendid piece of writing. Splendid. As is your photograph. As to the subject–that August humid hiatus of Texas toast–well…we all try to bloom where we are planted.

    I must confess, living in perfect weather here in the way-too-crowded San Francisco Bay Area, that we are still enjoying marvelous days…in the mid 70’s, sunny with cooling breezes from the bay. This morning, as I write this comment, high cirrus clouds dot a gorgeous light blue sky. The trees–oaks, bays, sycamores and walnuts–stand still this morning; the grasses, golden, listen for the deer, the bobcat, and the fox.

    Fall–he is coming. The squirrels at the Rancho are busy collecting acorns. The chickadees hanging out with the jays.

    1. Now you’ve done it, Cheri. Forevermore, I’ll think of sweat as the gravy accompanying Texas toast.

      I remember those perfect, Bay area days. Weeks. Sometimes, it seemed like months. I never experienced the variety of wildlife that you have, but the trees, the sky, and the breezes? Oh, yes.

      How long has it been since you’re read Tennessee Williams’s short story, “The Tomato Patch”? It has the truest, most elegant, most memorable description of California weather I’ve ever read:

      “The wonderful rocking-horse weather of California goes rocking over our heads and over the galleries of Olga’s summer hotel. It goes rocking over the acrobats and their slim-bodied partners, over the young cadets at the school for flyers, over the ocean that catches the blaze of the moment, over the pier at Venice….

      …It has gone rocking over accomplishments and defeats; it has covered it all and absorbed the wounds with the pleasures and made no discrimination. For nothing is quite so cavalier as this horse. The giant blue rocking-horse weather of Southern California is rocking and rocking with all the signs pointing forward. Its plumes are smoky blue ones the sky can’t hold and so lets grandly go of…”

      Now, that’s writing.

  16. those chickadees are hanging out with the jays..and Cheri? Well, she hasn’t had enough coffee to thoroughly proofread her own writing. What would her students say?

  17. During the 80’s boom companies were telling their new hires, “Do not bring your wife to TX house hunt in August.” All you can do is hibernate with that oppressive smothering blanket of heat and humidity.

    Makes me remember moms in thin cotton dresses damp from the effort to do normal chores and cooking – slowly waving themselves with whatever could serve as a fan in hand. And waiting on the porch with a glass of iced lemonade for the mailman…and being happy if the condensation on the glass dripped on your toes.

    But Summer seems to be shaking her blanket getting ready to fold it up until next spring’s picnic…the sun’s path has altered (much to the cat’s delight and joy to nap in new sun spots now that the blinds are open again). There’s a bush outside the window already turning scarlet and sporting pink flowers – it only does that in fall. The crepe myrtle leaves are turning golden – not from lack of rain. And noticed a flock of white egrets in trees along the little canal – they moved on the next day – but that’s awfully early – maybe they were avoiding tropical storm winds and are off course? Anyway, need to check out those furry caterpillars?

    Lovely post. Artistically crafted, exquisitely. COOL flower!

    1. The same goes for visiting relatives. i’ve told a few, “No, you really don’t want to come down in August, no matter what you schedule looks like.” Add in the possibility of having to turn right around and evacuate for a storm, and it’s just not good timing.

      Speaking of egrets — have you been over to see the big roost along the canal behind the Cock-Eyed Seagull? I thought they were there only in winter, but it turns out they’re year-round residents. The numbers do increase in winter, but there’s never a lack of birds. The Audubon Society does a December count there, and I ran into a woman the other day who’s on their “monitoring team.” They come in at sunset, and leave earlier than I’ve ever gotten over there.

      I’d forgotten those cardboard fans that always were lying about the house. The funeral parlors gave them out, and the hardware store, too. As for the offered lemonade or water — that still happens. It’s rare in the summer for a customer to show up and not offer a cold drink, even if I’m obviously well supplied. Yacht clubs: a last outpost of civility.

      I’m glad you like the flower, and the post, too. The good times are right around the corner.

      1. Pretty large flock there last week mid day and also in the cloudy, stormy afternoon. Local residents? Maybe that’s where the flock in the field not far from there hides out. Wish the little cities would develop that canal waterway with parks and trails along with patios of restaurants. Such a waste. (It is taking forever to do the bike trail bridges…)
        There’s hope if some remember what used to be common courtesy. Sailing has always had a different sort of people – and not always the rch crowd that people always sniff about. We used to laugh that sailboat owners always had the old cars and little plain houses – different priorities.

  18. How well I remember those Dog Days of late Summer when I lived in Texas! As someone who’d grown up used to Fall’s approach (with its welcome relief from relentless heat), I chaffed at the knowledge that temperatures still clung to the 90s at 10 p.m. and there would be several more weeks before the cooling began.

    You’ve expressed it well here, Linda. Summer does tend to over-extend her visit … at least, in some years. The short answer, of course, is the arrival of a hurricane, but nobody really wants relief that badly!

    Thanks for reminding me that here in the Midwest, we can look forward to cooler temps as the days shorten. It’s not happening yet, but we’re still hopeful!

    1. The last time a storm rolled through here, the great irony was that, even though it fairly well scrubbed the atmosphere of humidity, the heat went sky-high, and drought set in. For people without electricity (that is, air conditioning) it was terrible. Whether we escape this year is still to be determined, but I’d never wish for a storm. For one thing, I have to much to do — can’t fit it into my schedule!

      What really started this post wasn’t so much weariness with summer as it was surprise at how much summer bounty still is around — a sort of second show. I suppose it’s because we’ve had so much rain. By now, brown and crispy would be the order of the day, but it’s not like that at all. People still are cutting grass, for heaven’s sake, and I’m still getting wonderful, fresh peaches. I never, ever would have thought that possible. Hot and humid is easier to bear when there’s peach juice running down your chin.

  19. You’ve described it so well. Everything is positively drowsy around here through most of August. Cooler weather is expected next week – upper 80s and lower humidity. September is a welcomed sight. I have to say that there is something that appeals to me about this time of year. It’s probably the expectation of fall. You definitely captured the mood in this piece.

    1. Drowsy is a good word. I still remember afternoon naps in the un-air-conditioned days with affection: open windows, robins chirping, sheer curtains barely stirring. Now, it takes autumn’s arrival for the windows to fly open — or at least a cooling trend. I’m always more energized in autumn. I suspect you are, too — and the cooler weather’s good for all that walking we need to do. :-)

      The heat’s been bad this August, and the rain actually has meant higher humidity, but the greenness makes up for it. It’s been a good month, and discovering so many little unexpected gems, like the flower up above, has made it even more special.

      The ceramic pumpkins are showing up at the grocery store. Isn’t it about time to ponder new togs for the porch pup?

    1. It’s true here, too. The quality of the light changes more quickly than the length of daylight shortens. We experience that gentle light, but from time to time, a strong autumn frontal passage pushes through, and the sky is the deepest, clearest, most vibrant blue you can imagine. And at night, with the humidity gone, we can see stars in the sky without having to drive fifty miles to get away from light pollution. I’m looking forward.

      I’m glad you like the lily, too. I was quite taken with it.

  20. The language you use to describe the lethargy induced by heat and humidity is so lyrical one could (almost) long for the experience not to pass. The photograph is a perfect accompaniment, as, of course, is ED’s poem. Happy summer’s end!

    1. I was hoping for a tone of lyricism rather than complaint, so your comment pleases me, Susan. I see you’ve been out and about, yourself, and I’ll soon visit your page to see what summer delights you’ve found.

      Speaking of summer delights, have you seen the film “Florence Foster Jenkins”? I’d be surprised if you haven’t. I went this weekend after being intrigued by a review of the much earlier play, and found it delightful. I was particularly interested in the way the response of the movie audience mimicked the response of the Carnegie Hall audience: from laughter and ridicule, to acceptance, to a more good-natured laughter. It was a perfect summer film.

  21. You know, I think T.S. Eliot was right in selecting April because it’s one those months that can’t be over too quick in my mind. August has just been hot and humid and humid. It’s used to be that once August rolled around, the air would change and the humidity that had been July’s news would vanish, but the last few years…things change. I do have to admit it will be nice to welcome in September. Yes, that does mean cooler weather, less humidity but this is a month that is warm with sunshine, blue skies, and I don’t know, maybe my birthday!

    1. Well, my goodness. Happy birthday to you, Tamara. I’m a little unsure — is yours in August, or September? Mine’s in October, which I’ve always thought was the perfect month for a birthday. When I was a kid, it was a little close to Halloween, but that’s not an issue now.

      It always surprises me when I hear people from the “northlands” talk about heat and humidity, although it really shouldn’t. We spent a good bit of time in Minnesota when I was a kid, and it could be quite hot. Still, all those pine forests did help to create a sense of refreshment. If only my folks hadn’t wanted to go to Leech Lake. I know the fishing was good, but I wasn’t particularly fond of the little critters for which the lake was named.

      I hope your new season’s delightful — even invigorating.

        1. I’m not sure where I picked that up. I think it may have come from an English friend, who often used the term. She was from the area known as the Midlands in England, so she may have adapted it.

  22. Just this past weekend I noticed the subtle shift to fall – although the temperatures have definitely been summer-like. But Autumn is getting ready for her annual visit. Also, I can tell summer is almost over because my skin gets dryer. So strange when the air still feels the same to me.

    1. The shift is subtle, and made up of hundreds of signs: probably more. But the changing light, the changing humidity, the stirring around of the insects and animals who seem to have been hunkered down themselves — your drier skin! — all point to the arrival of a new season.

      Berries are ripening out in the woods, too. I found wild beauty berries last weekend, and snail seed with its red berries — the very vine that I photographed last year. It was like finding an old friend to celebrate autumn with!

  23. It’s at times like this I would just like to pluck you out of Texas and fly you north for a Michigan summer. Not that it isn’t hot — it gets hot. But not as hot as you are! And not as dry either (at least usually; I know you had some rain this year and until last week, we’ve been on the dry side.) Still, I am reluctant to bid farewell to summer. While fall is lovely, our winter is all too grim!

    Still, on my trip last week to Canada I saw leaves beginning to turn and I suspect when I drive north tomorrow I will see more of the same. The temperature will be a bit cooler and who knows what the weather will bring. We shall see. But for you, I wish a bit of relief!

    1. August has been almost amusing in terms of hot and wet. The first half of the month was ghastly. It was so hot I just couldn’t work midday. Then, a change came, and Houston Hobby set a record for the most consecutive days of rain. Granted, not all of it was gully-washers, but it was rain, and it helped keep everything green and living.

      One reason I’m so eager for a little moderation, please, is that with outdoor time limited by extreme heat, morning and evening have been devoted to work. In the midday, when I can’t work, it’s not been exactly the most pleasant time to be wandering the prairie and woods. So, even though the days are getting shorter, the usable hours are getting longer: or at least staying the same. Odd, but nice.

      Happy and safe travels, Jeanie. I’m looking forward to your light show. And, by the way, YouTube isn’t so hard. I managed it once, and have thought of trying it again. Making the video was harder than posting it. Think of it as crafting, and you’d have it mastered in an afternoon.

  24. Ours has been an unusually hot summer, the hottest on record I heard. Yet I know it doesn’t hold a candle to what you endure. But still, I think most of us are looking for a turn in the wheel of seasons. September is an especially sweet month, with slightly cooler nights but days generally quite comfortable. Evening sneaks up on us a little quicker, and the softer light accentuates the changing leaved landscape. My wife and I think that September will be our favoured camping month in retirement. Time will tell…

    1. My hunch is that it’s a longing for change that begins to nag, as much as a desire for certain conditions. Anything that drags on — a bad movie, a case of the flu, August heat, March snow — seems to make everyone restless, ready for something new.

      After reading your post about the beginning of the school year, it occurs to me that the hunger for change plays a role there, too. You reminded me that even the most pleasant things in the world can go on too long. Visits from beloved relatives, or truly extended travel come to mind.

      I caught a whiff of smoke recently, and for a moment, it was autumn. Now that you mention camping, I can’t help but wonder: perhaps it was smoke from your campfire i smelled. It is September 1, after all.

  25. Late summers can obviously be so different. In Washington (state) I personally, until a few days ago, have had a truly lovely August month. Now I am back in Bergen, Norway, and here they have had a record breaking amount of rain in August. And where you are, obviously August is very warm. :-)

    By the way, I love your beautiful photo.

    1. While enjoying your recent photos, I thought a time or two about the very different conditions there. Backpacking and hiking certainly are more enjoyable when the weather’s more moderate. As for Norway, I thought about you again when I read about the lightning strike that killed so many reindeer on the Hardangervidda mountain plateau. The natural world’s a varied and amazing place — not to mention unpredictable and sometimes dangerous.

      I’m glad you’re home safely, and no doubt readying for your next adventure. I’m looking forward to following along. And, I’m glad you like the little flower. It was a wonderful discovery.

  26. Willing to consider the day.,,,,that about says it in the doldrums of summer….just how long the willingness lasts in the oppression of heat and humidity….yawn..a nap sounds nice!!

    1. If you were in Cedar Key, you wouldn’t be thinking doldrums. I’m glad you’re well away from the storm. I follow a guy named Mark Sudduth, who brings in cameras capable of live video feeds to areas affected by storms. I watched one of his cams go underwater in a Houston Bayou during our flooding — amazing technology. If you want to peek at his cams, you can find them here. One is in St. Marks and one in Cedar Key.

      Your mention of the doldrums brought to mind Coleridge’s famous lines:

      “Day after day, day after day,
      We stuck, nor breath nor motion;
      As idle as a painted ship
      Upon a painted ocean.”

      As one of my friends used to say, “We be calmed!” Here’s to a rising wind.

      1. As dull as doldrums are rising winds are best view from afar!! Although, excepting anyone getting hurt or property damage, I do enjoy the power of weather, keeps us humans mindful of our place in the grand scheme I think and what we can and cannot control. I have visted Cedar Key which is delightful and also St Marks for the lighthouse…hoping no lasting harm to those spots.

        1. It will be interesting to see things in the daylight. Last night, a wooden deck from a restaurant took out one of Mark’s cams. What was fascinating was that it kept right on recording, even after being ripped off the pole. Eventually, of course, it stopped — the theory is that all the jostling disconnected the batteries. I’m sure it’s gone, but I’m looking forward to hearing whether someone finds the thing.

  27. In these days of quiet doldrums I often find myself back in childhood afternoons where even the light was different as the breeze flutters into the room where Auntie and I napped each day. I can still see the billow of the curtain as the smell of dry grasses and something else I can’t decipher joins us in the room.
    These powerful memories return each Autumn as I am reminded once again that this day won’t come again, but the memory of this one will stay with me, and someday I will remember it.

    1. There’s an old-time restaurant and hotel about two hours away, in the middle of the coastal plain. They’re famous for their family-style meals, and people make the trek, even from Houston. The last time I was there, the screen doors were open, and while I was sitting in a hallway waiting for a friend, one of “those” smells drifted through. It was exactly the same smell as summer at my grandmother’s house. It wasn’t the food. I think it was the combination of old linoleum (yes, they have linoleum), summer air, and perhaps even an old-fashioned cleaner — all mixed with very old waxed wood. It was wonderful.

      Like you, I remember those curtains wafting in the breezes. The bedsteads were metal, and it was so pleasant to reach out and feel their coolness. There’s something primal about curtains stirring in open windows. The artist who came closest to capturing it was Andrew Wyeth, I think, with his wonderful “Looking Out, Looking In.”

  28. Beautifully descriptive of these late summer months! What I like about Dickinson is how she capitalized words that held special meaning for her, or enhanced the stanzas (whichever may have been her reason to do this). She also capitalized “Nature”, and so do I.

    1. Dickinson’s form could be as unusual as her choice of words. Why she wrote as she did, with all those dashes and capitalized letters, I can’t say. I suppose someone has explored her other writings deeply enough to at least have some sense of it, but when I dipped into a couple of articles about her literary form, they seemed to be over-complicating things. I prefer to read, enjoy, and share!

      I sometimes will capitalize ‘Nature,’ too. And, to me, Nature is ‘she,’ just as boats generally feel like ‘she.’ There are some sorts of boats I never think of as ‘she,’ but those are the loud, gas-guzzling, over-powered things I mostly prefer not to think of at all.

    1. You know what those cooler temperatures mean, Sheryl. It’s almost time for dishes that require an oven: pies, pot roast, and so on. It’s funny how dishes change seasonally, too. Pasta salad in December? Not a chance! Have you noticed your recipes changing as summer transitions to fall?

  29. I enjoy reading about seasonal changes and then pull out another light weight shirt to wear as the day warms to our usual 80F. So thank you for these words and Emily’s gentle farewell to summer. These days, we’re getting a tiny autumnal tease (cooler nights) and then maybe a last-hurrah heat wave for a few weeks in October.

    Did you shoot that with your new lens? When I visit with Sis, I’m going to try out hers ;-)

    1. I had to laugh at myself when a northern California blogger wrote about going outdoors to warm up, because the house was so cold. My natural impulse was to ask, “Why don’t you change the thermostat?” I’d assumed the house was cold because of air conditioning. It simply never occurred to me that the house might be cold because of air temperature, or that their debate was, “Shall we turn on the heat?” Assumptions, assumptions. No wonder cross-cultural communication can be so fraught.

      I did use the 100mm for this photo. I must say, I’m finding I’m shakier than I realized. Getting a nice, crisp photo with a handheld macro lens is hard. Of course, wind, insect movement, and all those external factors play into it, too. But it’s great fun, and the occasional success makes it well worthwhile.

      1. I used to live in a drafty house that was always hotter when the weather was hot and colder when the weather was cool. Malfunctioning central heating, leaky roof, nonexistent insulation…

  30. Both poets are my favorite and how nice to remember them within your amazing post. Summer was all different for us… I mean for the world. But as always we are going to say bye bye to summer days now… Do you know dear Linda, Texas in my mind as if always in hot summer days :) Thank you, have a nice day and have a nice new season days. Love, nia

    1. But it isn’t always hot, Nia. There are beautiful autumns, and even in winter we can have ice. Sometimes, there is snow, even here on the coast. It’s never much, but it’s always exciting — and we always hope for it. It’s been three — maybe four — years since I’ve seen snow. Maybe this will be the year. If it is, I’ll find another Emily Dickinson winter poem for you!

        1. I understand how one image can be the primary one in our minds. Many people think of Texas as hot and dry, just as I think first of the Arctic as cold and snowy. But there are flowers in the arctic, too — I just don’t think about them. It’s so interesting to add images to our mental albums, I think!

  31. It is such an elegant image at the top. Is it a rain lily? Trust Emily Dickenson to have just the right words for the end of summer. 2 days ago it was really too warm for comfort or activity. Today I’ve turned on my little space heater! And yet the leaves are still green. Somehow summer is just slipping away from us here. You put it so well. We, too, suffer from cabin fever in August, and from the effects of too much air conditioning. I always hope there will be a respite before we plunge into months and months of cold dreary grayness, heavy dark staticky clothes, dry skin, salted roads… whine whine.

    1. It is a rain lily, Melissa. When I posted it, I didn’t have a clue what kind of rain lily it was, but just this past week, I finally got an ID. It’s going to have a starring role in my next post, along with some of its friends. It is a Texas native.

      It’s stayed warm and wet here, too, which has increased the number of rain lilies, and sent many other plants into pre-autumn overdrive. But we’re cooling, and I just heard that there may be lows in the 60s tonight. Granted, here at the coast it may be the upper 60s, but I’ll take it.

      Whine away. Everyone deserves a splendid Indian summer, and I hope you get one with every good quality: blue skies, fresh breezes, and of course plenty of late-season blooming.

      1. YES, we have come to expect our long Indian Summer as reward for surviving the long hot sticky weeks of late summer.I hope we get it but right now it is looking and feeling more like late October. I’m glad that you are getting some refreshing temperatures.

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