The 269th Day of the Year
By the twenty-fifth of September, the Red Maples are beginning to be ripe.
Henry David Thoreau
Day’s Length: 12 hours 3 minutes
Average High/Low: 74/52
Average Temperature: 63
Record High: 94 – 1908
Record Low: 35 – 1903
The Daily Weather
There is only a 20 percent chance of rain today, with skies clear to partly cloudy nearly 90 percent of the time. Highs reach 80 two years in a decade (rarely 90), the 70s four years, the 60s four years. Frost comes only five to ten percent of the mornings, but lows are in the 50s one fourth of the time, and in the 40s more than half the time, leaving only a little room for milder 60s. Average temperatures, which varied only one to two degrees at the height of Deep Summer, now start to fall at the rate of four degrees every week.
Milkweed Pod Bursting Season reveals the passage of equinox. Insect Season slowly dissipates, and spiders weave fewer webs. Across the countryside, Ashturn and Hickoryturn Seasons color the ashes and hickories gold. Red Barberry Season spreads through the barberries, and Box Elder Leaf-fall Season deepens. Finally, the first days of the Season of Killing Frosts (which lasts through the middle of May) completes September.
At midnight, the Milky Way runs from east to west across the sky. The stars of the Summer Triangle are setting in far west, and Orion is climbing up from the eastern horizon. Hercules, which was overhead at 12:00 a.m. in the first week of June, is now setting in the northwest, and Castor and Pollux, the twins of Gemini are peering over the tree line in the northeast. By sunrise, Orion has shifted to the center of the heavens. January’s Leo and its brightest star, Regulus, have come up in the east, and the Great Square is following Hercules into the Pacific Ocean.
1983: Covered Bridge: Tree coloration has remained stable all month. Stands of brown mullein follow a more predictable pattern, foretell next month’s sudden changes. There are a few tall bellflowers left here and there – the strongest will last into November. Touch-me-nots are still blooming, but their foliage deteriorates. Parsnips are growing back. Clearweed has its seeds. Older wingstem and ironweed are done. Wild lettuce leaves are yellowing. Some goldenrod is brown. Boneset flowers are rusting. Most seeds have fallen from the wood nettle. Henbit comes back in the garden, violets in the grass. No cobwebs noticed across the path. A flock of finches seen downstream.
1988: Jacoby: Now the goldenrod and asters are in full bloom. First autumn violet found. White snakeroot still full. Boneset gone. Coneflowers still hold, and artichokes. Trees not ready yet, still in early September transition stages.
1992: Frost has threatened for the past three nights, but we have escaped unhurt with a light wind. Cardinals and crickets silent this morning. Sky so clear.
1995: Covered Bridge: the high portions of Japanese knotweed were burned by the frost this week. I noticed burdock was brown, its seeds ready to stick. The canopy is still intact here, almost no coloration in the trees, and the paths are still relatively free of leaves.
1997: The pussy willow in the back yard has lost almost all its leaves to leaf miners. Out in the country, the turning of the landscape picks up speed. This morning, temperatures were in the 40s, Orion in the south, the sky clear.
1999: Kelley’s Island. Cormorants back and forth across the inlet today. I’ve never seen them in their formations before. This afternoon I talked to a woman who was going to Florida for the winter with her family. But she was unhappy at the prospect of leaving the cold and the wind. “I love the seasons here,” she said.
2000: Many dogwoods red now.
2001: Doves have been quiet for how long?
2003: One crow heard at 6:30 this morning; it seems to me it was the first one I’ve heard from the back yard all year. A small flock of crows at the mill habitat this afternoon at 1:00. To and from Washington Court House: at least a half dozen monarchs seen. Goldenrod, New England asters, small white asters, pink smartweed, Jerusalem artichokes and Short’s asters are still strong along the roadsides and in the woods. At home in the north garden, three monarchs and maybe ten painted ladies seen. Virgin’s bower has ended its season.
2004: A cardinal sang at 6:10 a.m. Afterwards, no birdsong at all until I heard a robin clucking in the back woods in the early afternoon. A small flock of geese flew honking over the village about 2:30 p.m.
2006: The ash trees at Wilberforce are full color today.
2007: Walking in the alley this morning, I heard starlings and looked to find the flock roosting in a dead maple over on Stafford Street. My ash tree at school is full yellow and has lost at least half its leaves. Most of the Wilberforce ashes and locusts are in early full, but some are holding back. On the road to Wilmington, many of the woodlots are reaching a stage of early turn. The coming week should be the best for all the first tier.
2008: Mateo’s tree is bare today, and my ash tree at school has lost all its leaves, as well. The autumn crocuses are still strong and tall, and Jerusalem artichokes are multiplying even as the goldenrod is rusting. Peggy’s virgin’s bower has started to decline. On the way to Wilmington, the entire landscape is turning quickly, reaching the early side of the first tier of leafturn – much the same as last year at this time. Ash, maple, redbud, sweet gum, box elder are all falling into line. One of Don’s serviceberry trees is about half down. Katydids and crickets loud every evening.
2009: Eight tall coneflowers in the alley, the plant making a comeback. Banks of violet and pink morning glories.
2010: Cool with sun, crows at about 6:00. No butterflies in the morning, then as the afternoon warmed, four monarchs at one time in the garden, one female and one mail tiger swallowtail, a small fritillary, two bright yellow and orange sulphurs, a handful of cabbage butterflies, just a few skippers, one red admiral and one painted lady (Cynthia). False boneset continues to draw the butterflies and bees, New England asters are in full bloom, as are the tall Jerusalem artichokes and the butterfly bush. Hummingbirds still come to the feeders. A green and black caterpillar was eating the Queen Anne’s lace plant by the back porch (near the white crocus that is still blooming strong).
2011: Gethsemani Abbey, Kentucky: “What is easier to discuss mutually with You, O God, the three crows that flew by in the sun with the light flashing on their rubber wings. Or the sunlight coming quietly through the cracks in the boards. Or the crickets in the grass?” Thomas Merton, “Dialogues with Silence”
An afternoon walk, cirrus and broken cumulus clouds, a hot Sun but a mild southwest breeze. There was even more to see than I saw yesterday. The same birds: chickadees, jays, crows, cardinals. Well, I did see two killdeers, the first in a long time. But today there were so many more butterflies, a swarm of blues at a damp depression in the roadway, dozens of buckeyes, many smaller fritillaries and sulphurs, many many grasshoppers, most smaller green and brown, but some of the larger species with the black and gold wings. A cluster of buckeye and polygonia butterflies happily feeding on the scat of a raccoon or opossum. No cabbage whites and no monarchs seen.
And more wildflowers: partridge peas on the earth dam by the high lake, beggar ticks and swamp bidens along the lake shore, a new white-flowered, three-petal water plant related, I believe, to the arrowhead plant, but with rounded basal leaves. The crickets were strangely quiet for most of the walk today – in spite of the heat, only a few field crickets and then later some sound-windows of ground crickets or tree crickets.
Then I found a large drift of a variety of rudbeckia, took pictures in hopes of identifying it at home. And deeper into the pasture, three-leafed, purple-flowered tick trefoil, and some horse nettle with pale blue flowers, and then a patch of sundrops and some thin-leafed Asiatic dayflowers, bright blue three- petaled near the woods. Then coming back, wood sorrel and black medic in the abbey lawn. The trees: cypress, white and red oak, yellow poplar, sycamore, sassafras, dogwood, elm, walnut, ash, one deep black-red sweet gum. I returned to the monastery with my ankles and feet overrun by chiggers.
2012: Osage fruit down along High Street and in the alley. Violet-petaled asters are open now, Short’s or heart-leaved varieties. On the trellis, one of Jeanie’s clematis vines has a soft, purple blossom, the virgin’s bower hanging on. At the bike path from Ellis Pond, many red-centered white asters. Gray, bleached skeletons of hemlock. Stinging nettle common there, still in bloom. Red maples are beginning to be ripe in town and at the park. Cardinals and blue jays seen in the alley, but only the blue jay gives its call. High crickets in the early morning, in the late afternoon and at dusk. Strong whistling cricket sound, often intermittent into the night.
2013: The garden continues to wear thin. Several large drifts of New England asters keep the center of the north border in color, and the zinnias and dahlias and the second bloom of roses and the butterfly bushes are still bright – even though they are shaggy and aging. The white autumn crocus still blooms. There are spatters of pink phlox and blue spiderwort, but the weeds are taking over all around them, invading and covering. Even Liz’s garden is brown and old, her Joe Pye sagging and seeding. One hummingbird and one hummingbird moth seen today but no butterflies at all. In the east garden, a large orb-weaver set up his web.
2014: Bright, mild, sun: The hummingbird was here this morning at the zinnias and the feeder. Many painted lady (Cynthia) and cabbage white butterflies throughout the flowers. The very last tall, pink hibiscus flower opened overnight.
2015: The hummingbird came by this morning, one monarch seen in the afternoon, cabbage whites and a skipper. Shasta daisies down to three blossoms. Orb weavers still common. The New England asters keep the garden intact, framed by tattered zinnias and tithonias. An autumn violet uncovered when I was weeding the daisies.
2016: Arriving home from Keuka Lake in western New York: A giant swallowtail greeting us at the west side of Jill’s house. Across the countryside today: the leaves are no longer hinting or suggesting; now the earliest leafturn has begun between where we started out near Rochester and northern Ohio. But back in central and southern Ohio and Yellow Springs, the temperature is over 80 degrees, and the trees are green as in summer. Throughout the 500 miles between here and Lake Ontario, the roadside vegetation is still red and gold and purple and white with sumacs, goldenrod and asters – and even still some blue from chicory.
2017: Gethsemani to Yellow Springs: Below Lexington, the trees are green. Above, and intensifying into Ohio, it is Early Fall, light coloring in so many wood lots along the road. Here at home, geese have gathered at the water feature near the university at the edge of town, the New England asters are in full bloom. One monarch seen when I looked out the window.
2018: Gethsemani in the rain: Walking in the courtyard, I saw a woman on her knees under the chestnut tree. “Chestnut time?” I asked, and she looked up at me with a big smile and said the monks had given her permission to take as many as she wanted, and she showed me all the shiny chestnuts in her basket. Large prickly hulls lay open all about her, the nuts peering out at us.
2019: A cold 52 degrees this morning. Perfect sun and mild throughout the day. Hummingbirds still at the feeder. Jerusalem artichokes seen tall and bold yellow behind the Baha’i church. Two silver-spotted skippers, three monarchs, two painted ladies seen in the garden while I was weeding. Jumpseeds very brittle, the stems easily emptied when I run my fingers down them. A small flock of geese in the field by Ellis. A small flock of ducks on a pond at the quarry.
2020: Geese fly over at sunrise. Windfall apples continue to fall to the sidewalk near Peggy’s house. No monarchs seen today (but it was a perfect butterfly day, sunny and mild), only a very few cabbage whites.
We are born and placed among wonders and surrounded by them, so that to whatever object the eye first turns, the same is wonderful and full of wonders, if only we will examine it for a while.
Giovanni Dondi, 14th Century, Venice