September is a 30-day spree of perfection, and each new brushstroke of yellow in the trees is a reminder of how fast it’s slipping away.
There are the garden tomatoes that quietly turn from orange to crimson overnight. There’s the summer squash flaunting yellow-skirted flowers, teasing the 40-degree nights. And there are the kids and me soaking up every morsel of sunshine like it’s our last meal.
September is archery season for Dan, who has adopted the seriousness of someone preparing to take an animal’s life. Meanwhile, the kids and I are adopting the unsustainable euphoria of late summer. We’re like the last partygoers on deck of the Titanic, determined to swill sunshine until the seasonal lights go out.
While Dan is decanting elk urine in the backyard for his super scent-camouflaging trick, Col and Rose shoo the chickens out of the strawberries, pleased to have someone else to boss around. I stroll around the garden, noting how far we’ve all come in the last months. Tiny squash seedlings have become giants, spewing a basket of zucchini each day; chokecherries have gone from hard, green orbs to ripe, bruise-colored fruit that Rose gobbles like a bear cub. And the children – Col, 5, now rides his bike to kindergarten. Rose, 3, tromps around the jumbly-rock mountains shouting, “Can we pick this mushroom, Mama?”
And myself? I’ve become that mom of older children who wants to scoop up the bald, screaming infant in the coffee shop whose mother apologizes for the disruption. I want to tell her, “Give me that baby. You drink your coffee. I’ll take the baby on a little walk.” Even with his red-faced howls, this newborn is so uncomplicated, his psyche not yet marred by life itself. My own uncomplicated infants seem more like characters in a book I once read, rather than tiny people whose squirmy bodies I once crooked in one arm, while fretting over how complicated life appeared. I smile at the flustered mom and feel the words “it goes so fast” bubbling up from my chest and literally have to choke them back.
I also am choking back a melancholic nostalgia for every ripe tomato in the garden that quietly flashes its own expiration date. And for the days of forever summer when jumping in the Animas River was part of afternoon survival. And for my wild children who seem to stretch and evolve in their sleep each night.
I’m stacking the pantry with pickles and chokecherry syrup, with peach jam and tomato sauce. If I could find a way to bottle and store Col’s squeaky voice or the vision of Rose’s small body running – in pajamas and cowboy boots – so fast I could hear her panting, I surely would. But, it’s lucky I can’t, my pantry could never hold it all. These juicy, late-summer moments are not to be stored, but to be lived.
Rachel Turiel’s column runs the first and third Sunday of the month. Read her blog, Growing children at 6512 feet, at http://6512andgrowing.wordpress.com.