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The Bitter-Sweetness of September

September is the perfect time to

  • Return to a comfortable regular routine

  • Re-connect with family, friends, and community

  • Savor days and nights of equal length

  • Enjoy the local vegetables and fruits still abundant

  • Have fun at local outdoor festivals

  • Embrace the connection between our daily lives and the natural world around us

Many people feel that September is a bitter-sweet time. Here in the Eastern United States, September is associated with the end of summer-time freedom and the return to school and work routines. While those changes can be tinged with sadness, there are many ways to see the transition as positive. September can be a time to get back into a comfortable regular routine, a time to connect with family and friends who are returning from vacations or time away in August. Community organizations, book clubs, and school associations are returning to their regularly scheduled meetings, so September is a great time to reconnect with our local communities. September is a gentle time, a time when the extremes of summer have calmed (except for the starting of Hurricane Season—but that’s a whole other factor!). If we can see the ways that this September transition coincides with the seasonal changes we observe around us, it can bring a sense of purpose and peace.

As we near the Autumnal Equinox, our days and nights are now of equal length (our days at the beginning of September begin with sunrise at 6 am and sunset at 7 pm; by the end of the month, sunrise is at 6:30 am and sunset at 6:30 pm). We can use that shift as a way to re-orient our time. There are still several hours of daylight after work or school, but the day does not stretch out for us as it does in mid-summer; however, we are also free of the August heat and humidity. Mornings and evenings might not be as bright, but they are cooler, and so they offer a great time to exercise outdoors or catch up on outdoor work or activities that we avoided in the strong summer sun and heat. September is a great time to visit a local beach, as the crowds are gone, but the water remains warm. Then also, September offers an opportunity to think about our evenings in new ways, to adjust to the best use of our indoor time. While we still might want to squeeze out an evening walk or some evening outdoor play in early September, we will also start to think about other after-dinner activities: reading, puzzles, artwork, or games. This shift back indoors often makes the shift back to daily homework a little easier, without the lingering sun and fireflies calling us back outside.

Different seasonal foods are now more abundant in September. We still have local tomatoes, peppers, melons, and summer squashes. September is a great time to think about gathering these local vegetables and perhaps canning or freezing them—it’s as easy as giving them a quick sauté and then bagging them for the freezer. Apples and pears are now starting to become available. There are often many local festivals where farmers can share their late-season crops, and activities and entertainment can be enjoyed while the weather is still pleasant. September is the time of warm sun in the day, when we might walk outdoors at noon in just a light shirt, but also the time of cool nights, where we can start to wear light jackets again. These warm days and cool nights bring us the beautiful colors in the leaves.

Focusing on the WHY we do things at certain times of the year keeps us grounded. This is because the answer to the question of “why” resides in the cycles of nature that we can readily observe around us. As we take the time to notice the seasonal changes, big and small, we can’t help but then see and appreciate the simple beauty of nature and the awe-inspiring regularity of the cycles of the Earth and Sun. It’s as simple as going outside or even looking out a window and noticing the color of a changing leaf or noticing how the sunset has shifted a little more toward the south again. When we stop and take in these things, we cannot help but feel a sense of joy and a sense of peace. Once we make the connection between these natural phenomena and our ordinary daily actions and behaviors, then that joy and peace become the center of our lives.

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