There’s this funny thing that happens to me once in a while. I’ll be out somewhere, at a store, a movie, at work, and someone will pass and for a moment I think it looks like someone I know. ‘Oh, there’s Joe!’ I’ll think to myself, or ‘There’s Donna!’ But then I realize it’s not Joe or Donna, but someone who simply looked like or called to mind those people. And then, here’s the odd part, sometime within the next few hours I will see Joe or Donna. It’s just strange, like the occurrence of deja vu.
I experienced the seasonal equivalent of this phenomenon the other day. I was walking up the driveway and I saw, in a gust of breeze, a cluster of yellow leaves flying away. It struck me that I was seeing the first notice of the end of summer, the onset of autumn. But once my eyes focused on the sight I realized it was not leaves, but a group of yellow butterflies coursing over and beyond the barn, really quite lovely, but not the harbinger of autumn. And then, an hour later, while driving down a side street toward work, I saw yellow leaves being blown across the road–actual leaves this time, cast down from a tree and scattering in front of me.
There is a heat advisory this week, with heat indices above 100 degrees. It certainly does not feel like summer is drawing to a close, except in the very cool mornings, before the sun has climbed above the horizon and begun its fierce work. In the American Midwest we usually have summerlike temperatures deep into September, so I don’t nurse any illusions about sudden breaks in the heat pattern. But the cicadas are filling the dusk with their vigorous song these days, and I know that time marches on.
I know I’m kind of new at this, but I am ready to offer one opinion about ‘country life.’ Summer is the season least accommodating to the experience of nature. Why? Too much to do. During the autumn and winter, despite household and barn chores, I found myself on many weekend afternoons dressing warmly and walking through the woods, down paths, across fields, finding out what this land holds. In summer, I spend that time on the lawn tractor, trying to keep ahead of Mother Nature, whose goal it always is to reclaim my patch of land for her own empire. It is a weekly, a daily fight. Then there’s the garden, the blackberry patch, the fruit trees and more that need attention.
Of course, to many people, tending a garden and fruit trees is experiencing nature, but I have never thought so. To me, horticulture and agriculture are applied technologies. Yes, you are on the land and getting your hands into the dirt, but gardening is a matter of controlling nature, not experiencing it. And while spring is about planting and autumn is about harvest, summer is the season most intensely involved with agriculture, not nature.
I will miss summer as it goes by, but I am also ready for the cool days and colors of autumn. Next summer I will do better. I will control the grass better, and grow more fruit, and plant more things in a larger garden. This summer was kind of an experiment. I have all autumn and winter to look back on it, to make plans, and to have a great summer next year.