The last of summer
It has slowly dawned on me over the past decade at Castle Beastie that September is one of my favourite times of year. For so long, I associated the month only with the end of the holidays, the start of the new school year – and a consequent sinking feeling. It was October which, after university, made me nostalgic: horse chestnut trees blazing with autumn colour over a punt-strewn backwater; the smell of damp leaves in a cobbled college lane.
September’s subtle beauty I have overlooked for too long. Morning mists clear to reveal a mild blue sky; mellow sunlight gilds the grass and kindles the first gleams of topaz and amber on the limes and the beech trees. Birdsong fills the woods again, a brief echo of the music of the spring chorus. Animals which hibernate in the winter are busy fattening up before the cold sets in, so it is one of the best times of year to see red squirrels digging under the avenue of ancient yews, and hedgehogs about their business on the lawns.
The ospreys flew south some time ago now, and a week ago the swallows and house martins followed suit. Buzzards still patrol the skies, though, their high mewing call haunting the tree tops. A raven cronks from a tall fir tree; a gathering of jackdaws squabble comfortably together in the limes. Outside the kitchen window, there is a fence post which is a favourite perch for a robin: he and I observe each other as I’m washing the dishes in the morning. His red breast feathers are growing a little brighter week by week.
What’s so lovely about this season, I think, is the mellowness. The children are back at school, the last of the holiday clothes have been washed and put away, and our events season is drawing to a close. Humans may have a feeling of new beginnings engendered by the start of the school year but, in the cycle of the natural world, there is a sense that the turning wheel is slowing down a little. Daytime temperatures continue to be warm: indeed, this year’s September has been unusually warm, with temperatures in the high teens Centigrade/ high sixties Fahrenheit on and off all month. Although the leaves are beginning to be tinged with gold and to colour the ground, overhead the trees are still thickly green. This is the moment in the year when we can almost fool ourselves that summer will drift on indefinitely.
The equinox is past, however. In the evenings, mist creeps up from the river as the daylight fails soon after 7pm. By morning the mist is sometimes thick fog, and there is condensation on the windows despite their being ajar. Today’s golden sunshine, birdsong and mild blue sky are amongst the last of summer’s gifts – which is precisely why they are so precious.