As we near the end of summer, we find that the best of the season is yet to come. September is the umami of summer. The tastes, the feel, the scent, the sight, of summer wildness all gain a richness, and a depth of expression in September. September embodies the essence and concentrate of summer deliciousness – the umami of the season.
September is a month of transitions. Suddenly – it seems – it is dark at 8 p.m. Not only is daylight with us for an increasingly shorter time each day, the quality of the light is changing. With the decrease of the angle of the sun’s radiating light (relative to our northern hemisphere horizon) the hue of yellow becomes more golden.
I do not think that it is too big a stretch to say that September light is a golden halo of enchantment. Literally, gold is the color of September: think goldenrod, think monarch butterflies, think moon rises. I’m sure the list could go on.
But the gold and depth of September is also figurative. The richness and complexity – the umami – is detected in the transitions; that is where you notice that everything is not as simple as it looks, but it is ever-changing. When you take note of these metamorphoses your awe and perception of the thing becomes full-bodied.
Some examples of Block Island’s September shapeshifting are perceived when you notice that the tawny-green field is progressively gold-leafed with flowers. When you notice that the caterpillar is a chrysalis. When you notice that the lawn is suddenly studded with puffball mushrooms, or the crotch of the tree is aflame with chicken-of-the-woods fungi. Signs of change are apparent when you notice that the flat beach is now cobbled and strewn with new forms of life; warmer waters have delivered to our shores (just this first week of September) Portuguese-man-of-wars, blue buttons (Porpita), and leatherback sea turtles. Again, the list could go on.
Savor the umami and embrace September’s changeover from summer to fall. And, take note: What transitions will enter your awareness during September’s microseasons?
In this year-long series of monthly articles I have taken to heart the truth that each season is not a three-month period but rather a continuum of
microseasons (each about five days long) that more specifically express the nuanced and varied nature of any season. Like the seasons of one’s life, it is the rich assortment and accumulation of discrete flourishing that make the whole being – or the whole season.
Apples, plums and grapes: September 2 – August 6.
One of the great transitions is from seed to fruit. It is time to look for and pick the year’s first windfall apples, wild grapes, and hidden beach plums.
Dragonflies and bonito: September 7 – September 11.
Life is on the move from summer locations to wintering grounds. Watch for the ebb and flow around our shores of humans, common nighthawks, porpoises and whales, green darners and other dragonflies, and false albacore and Atlantic bonito. New Dragonfly Moon will occur on Sept.7. And, the Lowest Clam Tide will be Sept. 8 at 3:09 p.m.
Caterpillars become monarchs - shorebirds and sea turtles: September 12 – September 16
Monarch caterpillars have transformed into a gem-like jade chrysalis and will soon emerge as butterflies. The great migrations of shorebirds and sea turtles is well underway, and wavering winds and currents can land these evolved-from-dinosaur creatures on our shores.
Fields of gold-leaf: September 17 – September 21
More than twenty species of goldenrod flourish during September: some species bloom early; others don’t bloom until the waning weeks of summer into fall. The Full Goldenrod Moon will occur at 7:55 p.m. on Sept. 20.
Season of mushroom embellishments: September 22 – September 26
It has been a damp summer: expect a season for mushrooms (fungi’s fruiting body) watch for puffballs, chicken-of-the-woods, fairy rings, boletes, and forms unknown or noticed in other years. The Autumnal Equinox will be 3:21 p.m. on September 22.
Migrating birds abound: September 27 – October 1
Good-bye gray catbirds, hello myrtle warblers. The island is well known as an important stop-over place for migrating birds. Following a good northwest weather front look for warblers, vireos, thrushes, raptors, kinglets, and so many more types of birds. Our summer breeding songbirds – gray catbirds, yellow warblers and common yellowthroats - will be gone from here. But, our over-wintering species such as myrtle warblers and white-throated sparrows will soon be arriving.
To share with others your appreciation for the umami of September, sign up for one of The Nature Conservancy’s many September programs: from bird and butterfly walks, to evenings of night sky viewing. Go to www.Natureblockisland.org for the schedule.