All right. I know I am prejudiced, but it seems to me that there is no finer place to be in October than Maine. (I can already hear the cries of protest coming from readers in other New England states.) Best of all is the light, which now comes in at a slant to make the landscape glow, and the changing leaves just add to the glory. Most of the humidity is gone, and on good days, the sky is a brilliant, cloudless blue.
But along with the beauty comes loss. Gone are the hummingbirds, and Clif and I miss those whirring beauties. Yesterday, we took in their feeders and gave them a good scrubbing before storing them down cellar.
We don’t hear the ethereal song of the hermit thrush anymore. In the summer, they tend to sing in the morning and evening. According to Audubon, the males are singing to defend their territory. Whatever the reason, it is an enchanting song that brings to mind little sprites playing their pipes.
We no longer spend nights sitting on the patio, and in a week or two, we’ll be bringing in the tables and chairs. How lonesome the patio looks when it is empty! But yesterday the day was sunny enough and warm enough for us to have lunch on the patio.
However, while some birds have gone, there are plenty that stay year round—the true blues, I call them. The jaunty chickadee is one of those hardier birds. And they, along with the finches, woodpeckers, and nuthatches, are hungrier than ever. It seems like we need to fill the feeders every two days.
The gardens are pretty much spent. There are, of course, modest sedums, but they are overshadowed by the general droopiness of the rest of the plants.
Then there are the begonias, those valiant bloomers that look good from late May through mid-October. Once upon a time, I was iffy about those flowers. Somehow they weren’t showy enough for my taste. How wrong I was! A annual that looks trim and pretty—in its understated way—for nearly five months? Who can ask for anything more?
Having seen the error of my ways, next summer, I plan to go all out with begonias—along the edge of my garden, in pots, everywhere.
From now on my rallying cry will be, “Bring on the begonias!”
Summer has pretty much come to an end. While the days might still be warm and sunny, the gardens around the house tell a different story—autumn is coming.
The back garden is definitely ragged, no two ways about it.
The bee balm is no longer in vibrant bloom, just a few red petals here and there.
Except for the border of annuals, the rest of the garden doesn’t look much better. But the impatiens are positively thriving—I have never seen them so big and full. Clearly, they liked the heat and humidity, even if I didn’t.
And the begonias, troopers that they are, continue to provide welcome color.
The front yard actually looks a little better, and it’s all because of the hostas that I divided and planted in the many holes in my garden. Hostas might not be showy, but they maintain a cool, even presence. Surely there must be a lesson in this.
One plant that is coming into bloom is the sedum—autumn joy. Here’s a close up with a little friend on the top.
Farewell, summer. You might have been too hot and humid, but I treasure those evenings on the patio, the nights with the windows open, the gatherings with grilled bread.
Last night, I dreamed that Clif and I were making fish and chips. We seemed to be in the hall of the Methodist Church in town. You know how dreams are. People kept coming for our fish and chips, and I was afraid we were going to run out. But lo and behold! Suddenly there was plenty, and when our friends Alice and Joel came, we had enough to give them. I have no idea what the heck such a dream could mean, but it makes me giggle just to think about it.
Now on to other matters in the hinterland.
My birthday is right around the corner—in September—but my friend Barbara will be home in Pennsylvania by then. So we got together for tea and cookies, and she gave me a lovely tea towel.
“I thought of you when I saw it,” she said.
“Oh, it’s so lovely. I don’t want to use it,” I replied.
Barbara gave me a stern look. “I gave the towel to you to be used.”
She’s right, of course. What’s the sense of having the towel and not using it? So here it is, covering rising bread dough, and this is how the tea towel will be used from now on. But the tea towel is pretty, isn’t it? Wouldn’t you hate to use it?
And speaking of pretty…I am slowly, slowly coming around to begonias. They’re bright, they do well in part sun, part shade, which is the best my yard gets, and they last straight through until fall. In short, they are troopers. (I hope you noticed the little fairy hovering over them.)
Readers might recall that this was the year I succumbed to hostas. I had lost far too many flowers in the dry shade that is the reality of much of my yard. Finally I snapped, digging like a fiend, splitting up hostas I already had, and planting them wherever there was a hole left by a dead plant. And there were holes aplenty. Now, in late summer, I see the wisdom of all that mad activity in the spring. The front yard actually looks pretty good. There are no masses of flowers, but that’s pretty much true for the entire season. Most important, there are no ugly bare patches.
In the backyard, a plant has crept onto the patio, and Clif thinks it might be an evil creature from Doctor Who. But Clif is wrong. Instead, it is a cucumber, exploring and expanding. So far, I’ve only gotten a few cucumbers. I hope I get more before the frost comes.
This last shot might seem a little odd. This really is our kitchen wastebasket, and there is nothing distinguished about it. I included the wastebasket because in an effort to reduce trash and my carbon footprint, I had set a modest goal for myself. Instead of a bag of trash a week, I resolved to have a bag of trash every other week. I am happy to report that this goal has been met, chiefly by buying more in bulk, cooking more from scratch, and being careful about the packaged goods I do buy.
My next goal? A bag of trash every third week. That one will be harder to achieve.
Finally, finally the heat broke last week, and no longer do I sweat just sitting at my desk and typing. A good feeling! In fact, today is chilly enough so that I actually have on a sweater as I sit and work. And we have had a few glorious August days, typical for Maine but getting rarer as the climate changes: Hot, sunny, and dry during the day—about 80°F—and deliciously cool enough at night so that blankets are needed.
One night, as I lay in bed with the windows open—I leave them open until it becomes too cold to do so—I listened to the song of the crickets, high, sweet, and sad. I heard the hoot of a barred owl. No cars drove by. Next door, no little boy tooted on his horn. No work across the street on a garage being built. Only the symphony of animals and insects, free from the noise of humans.
We humans have such a way of intruding. You might even call us invasive, and we have the gall of criticizing other species that seem to take up too much space, too many resources. But who are we to wag the finger as we burn through Earth’s resources?
I thought of this the other day when we went to our local Cumby’s, to get air for our car’s tires. As I sat and waited for Clif to fill the tires, I noticed an unlikely strip of beauty, wedged between the gas station and the road, with a Rite Aid on the other side. Luckily I had my camera with me.
This spot is a wet area, in its glory right now, and from this picture, you’d never guess how small and cramped it is. But here is an opportunity, and nature filled in. No doubt water creatures live there, too, caught between the parking lot and the road.
You have probably also noticed the purple loosestrife, which has been dubbed invasive, and I guess it is. But despite its name—did Dickens come up with it?—and spreading ways, it is a lovely flower that attracts lots of pollinators. Even though purple loosestrife is the bane of naturalists, I have sympathy for this plant that, along with with goldenrod and cattails, can bloom in a wet spot surrounded by asphalt and traffic.
One day, I wonder, will we be grateful for this tough beauty that has the ability to thrive in such a cramped area?
Who knows? But here in Winthrop, Maine, purple loosestrife has at least one admirer.
This summer, the weather in central Maine has been miserable—hot and humid, with mold growing where it usually doesn’t grow. On Saturday, it was so hot and humid that I spent the afternoon on the couch. I just didn’t have the energy to do anything else, even though there is always much to do around here.
That night, Clif and I went to the Theater at Monmouth to see Enchanted April, and my friend Alice was there. We commiserated about the uncomfortable weather and how the recent thunder storms have done nothing to relieve the heat and humidity.
“It’s just like Pennsylvania,” I said, remembering a long-ago vacation when the girls were young. After that trip, we decided never to leave Maine in the summer again.
“It’s just like southern New Jersey,” Alice replied. “That’s why my family went to Vermont for the summer.”
Heading north has been a time-honored way of escaping the heat, but how far north do you have to go nowadays? Recently I read that because of extreme heat, fires are raging above the Arctic circle. You can’t go much farther north than that.
But on Saturday, I felt revived after seeing the delightful Enchanted April, a story about loosening up, just a little, so that life can be better appreciated. And last night, the humidity broke. It was so chilly that I had to add an extra blanket to my bed. A very good night for sleeping.
Then there are the flowers of late July, the last hurrah for my gardens. I usually have black-eyed Susans to perk up August, but this year they haven’t done well, and I only have a few blossoms here and there. I have had those black-eyed Susans for many, many years. It might be time to replace them.
Anyway, here are some of the lovelies from my gardens.
My favorite daylily. What a mouth-watering red!
This one seems to glow from within.
This daylily is more delicate, but I love its pale beauty.
Hostas aren’t known for their beautiful flowers, but the fringe of purple brightens the shady front garden.
As does this balloon flower.
The meteorologists predict more hot and humid weather for the middle of the week. It looks as though no matter where you live, extreme weather is here to stay, and we just have to learn to adapt to it.
And perhaps not release so much carbon into the atmosphere?
Just a thought.