“By all these lovely tokens, September days are here, with summer’s best of weather, and autumn’s best of cheer.”–Helen Maria Hunt Jackson
August slows, and puts on her turn signal. Autumn lies just ahead. The signs are all around us.
In my backyard prairie patch, the goldfinches work the cup plant seedheads–then sip a drink from yesterday’s rainwater, pooled in the leaves.
Nearby, a lone monarch appears on the zinnias, delicately sourcing fuel for its migration flight to Mexico. Hasta la vista. What a tough year it’s been for you, monarchs.
Hikes on the prairies after work end sooner. Shorter days. Earlier sunsets.
The tallgrass is peppered with dark chocolate coneflower seedheads; limned with early goldenrod.
In the first light of morning, deep in the dew, the white-faced meadowhawks appear. Harbingers of fall. Their kin, the green darners and wandering gliders, black saddlebags and variegated meadowhawks, have already taken wing and left the Midwest. What a wonder, that they can disappear into the winds to fly thousands of miles! The non-migratory dragonflies are tied to this place, however, and wait helplessly for the cold.
There is a more spare look to the landscape. It moves from cheerful to slightly melancholy. Lonelier.
The jewelweed opens along the prairie’s creeks. Hummingbirds work the flowers for nectar, mindful that they’ll soon need energy to make the long trip south. Come on! You can almost hear the monarchs and dragonflies whisper to the hummers. It’s getting late. Go!
Summer is ending. We see dimly ahead. Wonder what’s around the corner.
And always, adventures to anticipate.
The opening quote is from Helen Maria Hunt Jackson (1830-1885), who was a novelist and tireless advocate for Native Americans. She was also a classmate of Emily Dickinson. She suffered many difficult losses during her life–parents, siblings, children, her husband. At the time of her death from cancer, Jackson was still advocating for Native American rights from her sickbed. Although some have criticized her prose as “middlebrow,” she used her words to change the world she lived in for the better.
All photos copyright Cindy Crosby: (top to bottom): cup plant (Silphium prefoliatum) with American goldfinches (Spinus tristis), author’s backyard prairie patch, Glen Ellyn, IL; monarch (Danaus plexippus), author’s backyard garden zinnias (Zinnia spp., certified Monarch Way Station), Glen Ellyn, IL; Russell Kirt Prairie, College of DuPage, Glen Ellyn, IL; early goldenrod (Solidago juncea) and pale purple conehead (Echinacea pallida) seeds, Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; white-faced meadowhawk, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; jewelweed (Impatiens capensis), Clear Creek Unit, Nachusa Grasslands, The Nature Conservancy, Franklin Grove, IL; Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans) with tall coreopsis (Coreopsis tripteris) and big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) also visible in the fog, Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL.