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This post is part of my 2022 Word Project. You can read what that’s about here.

Monday, September 11, 2023

I just realized I missed a word opportunity that I could have used every month, which is the actual month. Every month has a different personality and I could have talked about them all in turn. Alas!

To be fair, some have more assertive personalities than others and are a lot easier to recognize in a lineup.

September is one of those months. That’s not always a good thing, but it stands out among its other 11 companions. If you said to me January-February-March-April, I’d be like meh. What about them?

They’re the flyover months of the year. You do them because you have to on your way to something more interesting.

July and August are by far my favorite months of the year, with July edging out August by virtue of the fact that after August comes September which means back to school, and as distant a memory as that is at this point in my life, it never fails to make me itch and squirm.

My kindred brother David texted me today to say I just saw my first school bus of the year and it made me twitch.


And even though this isn’t the back-to-school blog, you can’t dissociate September from school. Unless you live in Tennessee where school starts in the middle of August, which I will never understand or approve of.

September has always come with a bit of melancholy for me. The end of summer and sun and warmth is not the high point of my year. As much as I love the colors and textures of fall, I still mourn the goodbyes that precede them.

Mother Nature does, too. She knows the end is nigh so as soon as Labor Day hits, she gets all tetchy and irascible, dropping the temperature from one day to the next by at least 30 degrees. One day you’re harvesting your 5000th tomato and the next they’re all dead in a frost.

But then she realizes that there is still a little bit of summer left to squeeze out and throws a final bash. It is altogether likely that it will be 95 degrees on any given day.

It’s not the same though. There is something qualitatively different about the sun in September.

Today Ralph and I went to the library to work. They have a pretty little courtyard there, with benches and a water fountain and all sorts of plants and garden d├ęcor. I like taking a few minutes here and there to step outside and enjoy it.

It was warm today, well into the 80s. The sun was bright and beating down, nary a cloud in sight. I baked for a bit, sitting there on a bench and watching the tiny butterflies. But it was different. There was something September-ish about the sun, something a little defeated, perhaps. Something understated.

I assume it has to do with scientific things like the angle at which it hits the earth, but I would rather imagine it’s because it is just as melancholy as I am.

There is also the unfortunate fact that on this day two-plus decades ago we suffered the World Trade Center attacks, which is a huge red slash across the heart of the month. It’s hard to think of September without thinking about that, especially in a world of the 24-7 news cycle and Twitter-that-is-not-Twitter-anymore. On a day like today, in a month like September, you have to pause for a moment to reflect, to mourn, and to be grateful all at the same time.

In better news, September starts apple picking season, which is always delightful. I wouldn’t say the south is known for its apples any time of the year, but I spent many lovely autumns plucking those red and pink and golden treasures from their branches.

It heralds in pumpkin-anything season and a person can never really have too much pumpkin anything.

Of course the trees begin to turn bright shades of red, orange and yellow, which goes quite a long way to improving a view and to making a noisy one more tolerable.

September is also quirky and interesting. Did you know, for example, that September and December are one of only two pairs of months that always begin on the same day of the week? November and March share the honor.

It is the only month where the number of letters in its name is the same as its ordinal number.

Of the top ten most popular birth dates in the United States, nine of them are in September. This is starting to sound like a conspiracy of nines. Or maybe a lottery number.

But September gets even weirder because it also has the honor of being the month that got chopped in half when England and its colonies in the United States adopted the Gregorian calendar. The previously used Julian calendar miscalculated a solar year and drifted off track for centuries until Pope Gregory XIII blew the time out whistle and reset the year.

It took three hundred years before the entire world got on board, but in 1752, the UK, most of the United States and Canada went to sleep on September 2nd and woke up the next day on September 14th.

We still can’t get people to agree on Daylight Saving Time. Can you imagine the mayhem of chopping eleven days out of a calendar and calling a do-over?

For me, September is sort of like the Sunday of the year. The end of soaking up the sun, proof that endless summer nights do, indeed, end. It takes me a minute to get used to it and make up my mind that as much as I may object, I will have to wear socks and shoes again.

So today I took a few minutes to be a little sad. There may be no cure for the summertime blues, but the best antidote to the September blahs is definitely pumpkin pie. As soon as I’m done sulking, I think I’ll go make some.

Photo: some here-today-gone-tomorrow September tomatoes. It was fun while it lasted.