Even when August was fairly new, signs of autumn were starting to appear. I have always thought of summer as the months of July and August—two months of the year boxed off with hot summer weather for everyone to enjoy. But this year, I began to notice signs of summer fading and autumn approaching in early August.
First, I spotted a newly fallen acorn on the trail while I hiked in the woods near my house. I spend the first months of the school year collecting, counting, and talking about acorns with the Explorers in my classroom. The exclamations sound like this: “Ann, looks at this huge acorn!” “Look I found a double one.” “I collected about a million.” “I can hear them falling out of the trees.” For me acorns are an autumn experience. I don’t expect to see them on the ground in early August. Yet, there it was.
Another favorite fall sight for me is the appearance of red-winged blackbirds in the wild rice of Pratt Cove, a tidal marsh in Deep River. The birds come to this cove to bulk up for their migratory journey south. (For the whole story of the red-winged blackbird and the wild rice read my post: Bon Voyage to the Birds.) On an early August day I walked past the cove and heard the familiar chatter of excited red-winged blackbirds flitting through the wild rice. As I watched the birds I thought, “But it’s August, what are you doing here?”
I have school-age children, which means I follow a school calendar. There is the school year and the activities that come with it, and then there is summer vacation—no school, summer programs, and a desire to use each long day to its fullest.
While watching the birds on that early August day, my thoughts shifted. I stopped seeing July and August as a suspended state in time. Nature doesn’t know about the school calendar. It has its own rhythm—a continual waxing and waning of natural events that is unconcerned with the activities and calendars of humans.
The number of birds in Pratt cove will increase as days shorten, nights cool, and autumn takes hold. The red-winged blackbirds will fly to warmer climates and wait out our winter. As the weather warms in the spring, they will return. And so goes their life cycle.
As the weather gets colder, more acorns will fall from the trees, the trees’ leaves will turn color and then join the acorns on the ground. The oak trees have their own cycle to complete and then begin again.
School started last month, the calendar fills with activities and commitments, and I take comfort in these natural cycles. The steady, predicable rhythm of nature grounds me as I navigate my busy, less predictable life.