Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun…

So begins John Keats’ “Ode to Autumn,” which was my father’s favorite poem about his favorite season and mine.

I love September. It’s a lush, golden month, and there are moments when I find myself stopping mid-stride, just noticing, breathing it in. There is a stillness in the air, a silence that occurs as summer winds down. 

At times, I feel that I am balancing perfectly on the arc that connects the two seasons. Looking one way, I can still see bathing suits, beaches and backyard barbecues. Looking the other, I begin to glimpse sweaters, wood fires and pots of soup simmering on the stove.

Queen Anne and Magnolia’s playgrounds are once again noisy with the joyful sounds of recess. Children, back in school, are no doubt looking longingly out their classroom windows, missing the carefree days of summer. 

School has begun. Vacations are over. Time to put away the sunscreen, the coolers, the beach umbrellas. 

Adults and older students are gearing up for the year, and work is beginning in earnest for all of us. I hear over and over that people’s calendars are filling up and new projects are gaining speed. Work has begun.

In his poem, Keats exquisitely describes the last push of the season as it conspires with the warm autumn sun to load and bless the vines, making them heavy with the fruit that has taken a year to produce. This is the time when we see, literally, the fruits of nature’s labor. 

Tomatoes are plump and red; apples are so heavy that they are falling off the trees; peach juice runs down our arms with the first bite. It’s time for canning and preserving for the winter, for culling the garden and preparing it for its long sleep. 

The leaves on the trees are turning deep shades of red and yellow and orange, paradoxically becoming more beautiful as they die. Harvest has begun.

If it were up to me, this would be the time when we mark the new year — not with wild, drunken celebrations but with reflection on what the summer provided in the way of experiences, renewal and inspiration. (Oh, I suppose we could throw a party or two in there somewhere — why not?)

Because we are no longer an agrarian society, perhaps we ought to rethink the way we celebrate and acknowledge harvest time. How did our projects finish up before we went on vacation? What is there still to do? How will we build on that in the coming year? A personal harvest — a harvesting of the fruits of our individual labors, be they family, work, art or personal goals — would allow all of us, not just gardeners, to look at what we have produced in the last year.

Take some time to straddle that arc, that bridge to autumn. Enjoy what has been and prepare for what is coming. 

As nature begins to reseed and prepare for the next harvest, plant some seeds within yourself for the coming year.

Happy new year!

IRENE HOPKINS is a freelance writer who lived on Queen Anne for 20 years but now lives on a sailboat in Ballard. She can be reached at hopkinsirene23@gmail.com.