Sunday, August 24, 2008

Looking to Autumn

You can’t help but get sentimental this time of year.

I remember as a young lad, dreading this particular week; the last week of August. It always meant the end of summer vacation and the return to the regular routine of school. I didn’t dislike school; but I completely enjoyed the freedom summer brought.

Summer meant visits to my Gran who lived in Tennessee. Those visits were always something I looked forward to. Gran had a wonderful sense of humor, was always smiling, always cooking (clogging our arteries at an early age!), and always telling a story. She was the most engaging story teller. I remember sitting with her, listening to her stories of growing up in the backwoods of Georgia or sharing a secret laugh about something my Grandpa did just that week. She loved a good practical joke. Fact is, Gran loved life each and every day. I treasured those times as a child, sitting on her lap, listening to her stories and feeling so much love that only a Gran can give.

Summer meant long days playing in the woods, or in the fields across from our house. Our neighbors, the Byrd family, owned a big dairy farm and they had enormous fields of corn. We would play for hours on end in the corn fields, creating our own version of a corn maze without damaging the well tended crop. It was a massive playground for endless hours of entertainment.

We would have to go through one of the corn fields to get to the woods. Once we cleared the corn field, it was like being transported to another place. Lush green spans of grass and meadow flowers beckoned us to the small creek that acted as a moat before reaching the wooded area. An old wooden bridge was the gateway to the woods since the creek was too wide to jump across (though we tried many times!). The bridge was scary in its own way. The boards had loosened over the years and would rattle as we walked across. We knew that if the bridge collapsed it would mean sudden death (when in fact we would probably just get a little wet from landing in the creek!). The adventures you create in your mind as a child.

The upwardly sloped woods brought endless hours of entertainment and looking back, education. The wildflowers that grew under the trees, the moss that covered some of the large rocks and ground, the birds, the squirrels, the foxes, and so many other things sparked my curiosity. I was always filled with “why?” questions. As other neighborhood kids would venture off and play, I would stop and be totally taken in by a strange insect, or watching a squirrel frolic in the trees. At a young age, I was trying to figure out how everything in nature worked. A curiosity I hold on to today.

As you crossed through the thick of trees you came to an amazing place – the top of a hill that was a picture perfect green meadow dotted with so many different yellow flowers. It was a magical place. It was always windy on this hill… always. It could be the hottest of days and it always seemed to be cooler on the hill. We would lay there in the tall grass chewing on a blade or two, and stare up into the blue sky. I miss that special place.

As an adult, I have an entirely different perspective on this last week of August.

My frustration as a gardener reaches its peak at this point. The dog days of summer and the lack of rain (August is typically our driest month) have stressed out the beautiful gardens I’ve worked so hard on. What was lush, green, and photo shoot perfect just a month or two ago is now yellowing, browning, and struggling to survive. The lack of rain means countless hours of watering each week and despite the best effort, just doesn’t seem to be enough. The pots of annuals that dot the patio and the porch are now producing smaller blooms and browning stems. No photo shoot perfection this time of year!

All of the tomatoes seem to ripen at once so quick decisions need to be made! Can or freeze them? Make my own Salsa and jar it up or make can my own pasta sauce base? Prepare a tomato tart (or ten)? The quick answer is ‘all of the above.’ It will be the only way to use up these luscious red bobbles.

This week I’m also filled with gratitude. It has been a wonderful summer. I shared so much of it with good friends, made new friends, and reconnected with others.

I’ve learned to appreciate all the seasons. So now, I’m ready for the season to change.
I’m ready for the scents and sights of autumn. It will soon be time for another round of hard work in the gardens (cleaning up is never fun!); but the hard work comes with a great sense of accomplishment for another stellar year of beauty.

I’m ready to pick apples and make pies. I’m ready to shift my decorating color scheme from light and bright to deep, colorful and warming. I’m ready to wear jeans, a sweatshirt and a baseball cap once again. I’m ready for college football (Go Blue!).

So, here’s to the summer that’s ending and the autumn that is just around the corner. I wish I could take one more summertime moment to walk across that rickety bridge and visit that beautiful meadow. Unfortunately, it’s gone now… instead, I’ll have to close my eyes and visit it in my memories.
The photo of the meadow is a representation of the special place, not the actual meadow. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of the memorable meadow.


Elaine said...

These are beautiful memories and thoughts of the last days of summer. Thank you for sharing them with us!

Brent said...

Great blog, Kenn
I was planning the same ode next week, but you beat me to it!

mike said...

"...I'm ready to make pies."

Ok.... you said it, I didn't.
We'll keep the Pies & Tarts page active, just in case. :)

I love your Gran's kitchen. How retro everything is - down to the cake carrier on the kitchen table. What a great picture! Looks like she's ready for Fall too!

Andrew said...

Lovely memories, Kenn. And the leaves are already starting to change up here!

John said...

This is also my favorite time of the year!! And my tomato canning will be commencing this week!

Kenn said...

Please take us step by step in your canning process.. I'd love to share it with everyone! Folks may not be aware what a great cook, baker, and homekeeper you are!