• One Minnesota Writer

Welcome to September’s Yellow Palette

The leaves on our backyard birch trees are just beginning to offer licks of yellow, tiny flames among the deeper green. The wildflower garden is a sunburst of false sunflowers, black-eyed susans, and goldenrod. The pot of nasturtiums has yellowed in a cooled-off way - anemic, dry, brittle. I relegate that pot to the space behind the garage where it will quietly snuff itself out.

I wasn’t ready to flip the calendar page this week. Yes, I still have a paper calendar on the side of my refrigerator, a gift from my friend Oonah. It has photos of places around Northumberland, where she lives, some of which I’ve visited. It’s a bit of travel photography I’ve enjoyed in this summer of staying home, a summer that sometimes seemed too long and scary to stand. But it was also a summer of noticing minute pieces of our home and garden precisely because we were here all the time and we - really I, since I can only speak for myself here - developed a much deeper appreciation for all the things I didn’t know were living in our yard. Even the gigantic spiders who keep appearing on the deck and the windows and between the trees.

But suddenly it’s September. The bright gibbous moon that kicked off the month has filled our night skies these past few days, its glow a welcome bit of illumination as we walk our dog or sit in our yard in the evening. I think about the looming election and continuing pandemic, try to focus on my own actions instead of worrying about all the actions I cannot control.

That focus has been challenging for months in a world with so much to worry about. All summer, I’ve found things around here that make me feel like I have influence over something. With some help from my partner Mick, I just finished reorganizing the garage: took apart old corroded metal shelving, whitewashed walls, built new shelving, got rid of stuff we don’t use, took hazardous waste items to the nearby waste site. Cleaning and purging, doing physical work, felt just right. Mick left me alone so I could build the shelves on my own, listen to music, have some space, drink a beer, think. I love him for that.

With the summer’s end, our light is shifting. I’ve always loved the fall, loved the swing towards shorter days and longer nights because it is a cozy time, cooking, feeding family and friends, snuggling in. This year, it feels more like a steadily lowering curtain, with socialization a huge risk for winter life indoors. And the world feels too unsettled, too uncertain. But I don’t believe it could be otherwise at this time. There is much to be fixed and much to be learned.

So day by day, I’m going to appreciate the changing palette that September brings. Appreciate the gentleness of autumn light. Cook with an eye toward what I can package up and bring to my kids’ or my friends’ doorsteps. Keep the coziness going because we really need that this year along with the thoughtful space inside those longer autumn nights. React less. Think more. Be deliberate. This is the path for now.

All photos by KCMickelson 2020

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