It’s the strangest thing.
Take these lines that were composing themselves behind my eyes when I first opened them one day last week: “The leaves are limp, the grass is dead, I’d like to stay right here in bed. Dawn comes so late, how can that be When birds once sang at half past three?”
What’s wrong with me? How can I be feeling so dark with this kind of beauty greeting us every day, the fog rolling slowly off our inland bodies of water?
I wouldn’t mind if they were good poems, poems of a polite praising nature, like the countless others written for this threshold moment of the year.
I think of the one called “September” by Helen Hunt Jackson that my Seventh Grade teacher made us all memorize:
“The Goldenrod is yellow, the corn is turning brown, the trees in apple orchards with fruits are bending down.” Nice, right? There are several more stanzas, equally nice, like this one:
“The gentians bluest fringes/Are curling in the sun/In dusty pods the milkweed/Its hidden silk has spun.” Even nicer! So why can’t my silly creations hold even a little of that lyricism?
I think it’s because this particular September doesn’t feel right to me. It doesn’t feel right at all.
For starters it stayed hot for too long, hot enough that in this house, we still have the air-conditioners in. There they still hang, our sad old window units, stuffed into our sad old windows.
By now I hate these air-conditioners, which I have come to believe make each room smell like some old bag of frozen peas. Plus they’re ugly, especially on the outside, the way they lean out the windows like rude boys showing the world their backsides.
Added to that, birds poop on them, leaving wispy white streaks that fan out from under them.
And then there’s the grass. The grass in our yard looks like somebody seeded it in Shredded Wheat.
Aren’t September’s evening dews supposed to refresh the grass? I thought by now lawns would have begun greening up again and looking like bright chopped salad, the way they did back in the spring.
Come to think of it, maybe that’s my problem. Maybe I’m grouchy this September because I got to thinking it should function as a second spring, almost.
It doesn’t though. It can’t. If the trees and bushes are starting to sport small dabs of crimson, or coral, or amethyst, it isn’t because they are flowering. It’s because they’re dressing up for the farewell ceremonies.
Sooner or later I’ll get on board with this fact I’m sure. But right now what keeps going through my head are the final lines of the Robert Frost poem called Reluctance, which ends with the speaker asking, “When to the heart of man/ Was it ever less than a treason/ To bow and accept the end/ Of a love or of a season?”
But then? Then I look at this image of our deck at the lake, as it looked just after 1:00 yesterday afternoon. I see the new, early shadows, and I repent of my grouchiness and feel freshly grateful each day’s particular beauty.