Late summer: A reflection on the changing season

sunflowerIt’s been too chilly the last few nights to sit on the front porch, my cherished nightly pastime these past few months. This morning I had to grab a jacket on my way out the door, and we had three straight days of overcast weather when it seemed like someone accidentally flipped the switch off of summer. It’s been a harsh reminder of what’s to come and how brief and precious our good weather truly is.

Summer is ephemeral in Michigan, a luscious but all-too-brief period when people in this state shake off their cabin fever and go crazy for 10 p.m. sunsets, blue lakes, lush trees and woodlands, fields, dunes, barbecues, bonfires, soft breezes and street festivals. If summer were the dominant season in Michigan, I’m convinced that everyone would want to live here. We’d practically be California, only with abundant water.

But it’s not, alas. That distinction goes to Old Man Winter. And he’s a bastard, lashing us mercilessly with long bouts of piercing cold, snow and long weeks of grey, lifeless skies for what can stretch half the year in some parts of the state.

Officially, summer doesn’t end until the autumn solstice on Sept. 23. But the past week, when we oscillated from August Dog Days heat and humidity to mushroom-growing cool weather, has been a cruel reminder that nothing gold can stay.

And so, I take refuge in the conflicting signals nature gives us in these parts this time of year.

By many counts, summer is peaking. The sunflowers I planted back in May have finally bloomed (a few have so far even survived the ravenous squirrels that make a mockery of all the work that went in to nurturing them). So have the native tickseed and goldenrod. The sultry Echinacea flowers have been in decline for a few weeks now, their drying cones morphing into bird feed, but the black eyed Susans are still going strong, as are the hydrangea.

hostaMy chile pepper plants are loaded with fiery fruit. Tables at the farmers markets are overrun with sumptuous tomatoes, peaches and corn, shiny peppers and cherries and juicy blueberries.

I take solace in knowing that, given enough warm weather, our lakes will likely remain swimmable well into late September; I’ve even been known to jump in the Great Lakes well into October. No matter the current conditions, I know we still have good weather in store before things go south and the winter grey moves in.

This is, in many ways, my favorite time of the year: Still technically summer, but not so hot, the daylight slightly more auburn, and fewer tourists and weekend warriors to spoil the fun. Most people assume Labor Day closes the books on summertime. Not me. I cling to every last shred of evidence, the flowers that bloom defiantly well into autumn’s leaf fall, the incomparable hue of the sunlight, the deep blue skies and the occasional hints of warmth floating on the cool wind.

And so, I hang onto summer, determined to squeeze as much out of what’s left of it as I can.

How are you planning to close out the summer?

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: