There is a day in September when everything is perfect. I don’t mean “perfect” in the unattainable sense. I mean it in the sense when every single sound and smell and happening and color and touch uniquely match the vacancies in your soul. For me, it is always September. There is a meeting of seasons and moods and time and vision that wrap this particular month in a sensory-rich cloak. Perfection occurs wrapped in September.
Like the ebb and flow of the ocean, the songs of the crickets and katydids wash over me in waves. Underneath that hums a frantic insect world, seeking and gathering nectar and pollen to fuel the winter rest. The honeybees and yellow jackets appear to choreograph their movements, dancing around each other in a delicate two-step, the wings of one singing exactly one note lower than the other. A dry leaf from the alders patters downward, a crinkle and a crackle and a fragile thud before landing with an emphatic sigh on the woodland floor.
Through this practiced symphony, a lone peeper calls, his voice raspy and hesitant, as if he’s forgotten he has a voice. The soft ker-lunk of frogs disappearing under the pond surface is punctuated with the occasional yeep as they escape my looming presence. Birds gossip in the hawthorn tree, murmurs and intermittent chirps.
Some of these sounds are those of spring, that dawning season. With the crisp nip that the fall air brings, and the days hovering balance between daylight and stars, it seems to many a reprieve – spring again! Let us sing and babble and bloom and dance! The official term rolls of my tongue as beautifully as the season that birthed it – autumnal recrudescence. It is a memory of spring in a musical masterpiece.
The palette of autumn is unmistakable, even though the sounds may sporadically betray. Nature in September showcases a depth of color and hue and contrast unrivalled. Pale gray fog embraces morning, shimmering with silver hints of moonlight. Grass green with sunlight hungrily grabs those sparkling dewdrops, adorning itself with ephemeral jewelry. Tipsy, tan stems drunkenly greet the dawn as they free their seeds to the future. A sky of dusty rose succumbs to butter yellow as the clouds are woken by the sun. Later that same sky wears a defiant blue, as if daring winter to tame its color. And as the greens bow to crimson here and gold there, September swaddles the world in a rainbow.
Purple and lavender asters, fiery sumac, stark white boneset, and russet dogwood leaves fill the landscape, causing it to overflow into khaki fields, chestnut and ivory streaked sparrows, and richly golden aspen trees. In no other place at no other time can every imaginable color be found. September inspired the first box of crayons.
When the sound and the colors come together it is breathtaking. With the addition of the smells of this month it becomes heart-stopping. Apples, spicy and sweet and a touch past prime seem to envelope me and cause my head to spin with pleasure. An earthy, old aroma radiates from the fallen and crushed leaves underfoot. My hands in September are rarely without a whiff of tomato vine, that bitter and green and unique essence. Freshly turned dirt exudes a heavy, rich bouquet which, when combined with the just-pulled garlic, creates the optimal September perfume. On the air there is the smell of chill, of cold, of silence.
One morning soon the September perfection will give way to a frost enshrouded landscape, the grass’s jewelry harsher and killing, yet just as ephemeral. The colors will become subtle and tame, the smells muted and weak. The sounds will lessen until an uneasy hush rests across the land. Someday. Right now it is still perfect, and the warm, glowing, heat of goldenrod, standing in armies through the fields, will keep the winter’s frost at bay for days to come.
Audubon Community Nature Center builds and nurtures connections between people and nature. ACNC is located just east of Route 62 between Warren and Jamestown. The trails are still open from dawn to dusk as is Liberty, the Bald Eagle. The Nature Center is partially open, including restrooms, the Blue Heron Gift Shop, and some exhibits. More information can be found online at auduboncnc.org or by calling (716) 569-2345.
This article is a reprint of an article written in 2017. Sarah Hatfield is Education Coordinator at ACNC.