Autumn is an odd time here in Upper Michigan. With late arriving summers, many of our plants are just reaching full bloom, just as the leaves are beginning their turn into an orange and yellow and crimson ocean on each side of the valley. It’s like we finally get all the way from those frozen moments in the spring to the full energy and motion of the warmth, when, like a comet receding from the sun, we head back towards the darkness and the ice.
We see weather being unpredictable, and I live in a place where the weather is extreme in the first place. Getting a surprise four feet of snow in April or May can be a shock. This year, summer came late, with the last of the snow melting off the ski hill some time in June. I started my seeds back in April (later than I like, but still plenty early enough), and my sprouting little flowers-to-be were more than ready to get planted by the time the ground was clear.
Here we are, three months later, and my flowers are finally fully ready to go. The zinnias and sunflowers are open, the cardinal climbers are stretched all through the deck, the moonflowers stubbornly refuse to flower, and the scores of convolvulus plants are a bit past their peak, their blooms this year especially beautiful. I try to look at them every day, since you never know just at what point they’ll be at their best before they fade. I want to visit them at every step along the way, appreciate what the months of warmth have wrought.
It’s nearly 8 PM here now, and in the peak of summer, there would be at least two more hours of daylight, with a third of usable light after sunset. Now, our porch light is already on. It won’t be too long before I go to work and come home, both in the dark. In between, though, are these incredible fall skies, where the sunsets light up the stray clouds with colours that hardly seem possible. It’s like all the warm parts are crystallizing as the cold comes, frozen reminders of the warm season of exploration.
What remains? The memories, the stories, the times we’ll share of what we’ve done. In the darkness we close in closer together. We find each other, seeking out that company. In the summer, the warmth, we simply go. In the winter, we come back and share.
In the fall, we watch the fading. The colour. We try to share those memories, all tangling together in a colourful soup of what we did and what we saw, straight. And if not, there’s always next year.
Words and photos by Kevin Hodur. Previously calling suburban Chicago and Portland home, Kevin now lives and works as a writer on Upper Michigan’s Keweenaw Peninsula. Catch regular editions of his ramblings with The Road Rarely Traveled Series.