Almanac September 2023
September is the last stand of sunflowers — thick with bumbles and honeys — wistfully facing east.
Sown in the softest days of summer, when early berries fairly tumbled from their vines, the seeds of these yellow giants held more than plumule and root. They held the glory of summer, a timeless cure-all, the warmth and likeness of the sun.
Weeks after their shoots burst through fertile earth, the sunflowers whispered patience. Ever reaching toward the light, their stalks grew tall and sturdy; their rough leaves wide as open palms. Soon, the buds emerged — tidy cinch purses as splendid as stars — holding their treasures tight.
Summer burst in all directions. Cicadas emerged screaming. Queen Anne laced meadows and roadsides. Thistle and clover reigned supreme.
Butterflies teetered on purple coneflowers, feasted on milkweed, drifted among sage, sedum and hibiscus.
At last, when early giants withered on their fibrous stalks, the luminous beauties unfurled.
Summer fades. And yet, the last wave of sunflowers beams.
Here now, they sing.
The bees know, sharing communion at their golden centers. Whirling in ecstasy. Humming an ancient prayer for grace.
We know, too. We hold tight to summer — let it transform us — then wistfully look toward the autumn sun.
New beginnings are often disguised as painful endings. — Lao Tzu
The Thick of It
Muscadine season is here at last.
Hypnotically sweet, this native grape thrives in the sticky heat of our Southeastern states, ripening from late August through early October. Ranging in color from greenish bronze (we call them scuppernongs) to deep purple, this thick-skinned whopper (Vitis rotundifolia) is the official fruit of North Carolina.
Muscadine wine. Muscadine jelly. Muscadine grape hull pie.
For some, muscadines by the handful take the cake.
According to the State Library of North Carolina’s online encyclopedia, early English explorers of the Outer Banks reported that this fruiting vine “covered every shrub and climbed the tops of high cedars.” This was 1584. Italian explorer Giovanni da Verrazzano wrote about the curious “white” grape some 60 years prior.
Perhaps you’ve heard of the half-acre “Mother Vine” in Manteo, now over 400 years old? Planted by Croatan Native Americans or, perhaps, settlers of the Lost Colony, this legendary scuppernong is the oldest known cultivated grape vine in the country. It’s aging, no doubt, like a fine, sweet wine.
Apples blush. Whippoorwill sings his final song. Things end and things begin.
The autumnal equinox occurs on Saturday, September 23. As the turn of the season graces us with equal amounts of day and night, we prepare for the final harvest. We celebrate the abundance here now, soak up the remnants of summer, and ready ourselves for the darkening days. OH