Christine Schoenemann (Maccabee)

A Tribute to Summer

As I write this, I am told this is the last warm day before the first frost, or so the weather forecasters are predicting. I am exulting in the sun and the warmth, but my heart grows a bit melancholic knowing of the impending freeze. Today, the wild asters are blooming profusely here, and thousands of bees are humming while hard at work storing up nectar and pollen for hibernation. I know that in a couple of days, after the frost, many flowers will be dead. However, if it is not a hard frost, some wild asters will continue to feed the bees right on through October. Also, about this time, box turtles are thinking about digging into the soft soil of the forests, soils which will be as hard as a rock all too soon. Migrating birds are congregating for the flight further south; many have already left. And my doors are mostly closed to keep in the warmth. We humans are all in the midst of the change from light clothes and jackets to corduroy pants, heavier coats, hats, gloves, and boots.

I love the song by Jean Ritchie called “Let Go of Me Summer.” Her words, and the haunting melody, capture the feelings many of us have at this time of year. I hope to sing it soon, if only to myself and the gardens I love. It is what I call a seasonal song. Most native indigenous tribes around the world had spiritual songs about the change of the seasons and, in fact, songs for daily changes from sun up to sun down. The birds certainly have no trouble singing at appropriate times, and so I know that I am no different. I will sing this song to strengthen my heart against the cold front and the losses that follow. I will sing it out to the valley, to the garden that was so abundant this year, and I will sing it out to the memory of open windows and doors and the easy flow of bodies from house to the gardens.

However, I will also enjoy the refreshing difference which this change brings. The trees are already putting on quite a show, and the cooler air is most welcomed. Indeed, the gardens, as well as the gardeners, deserve a much-needed rest. Finally, we have time to write those letters or that book; do some cross-stitching or woodworking; cuddle up by a warm wood fire on long, cold nights; or clean those places we neglected while we were out in the garden growing our crops and mowing our lawns. Preparing for the holidays will take priority in many of our lives, though it can also become a crazy time. I suppose the important thing is to always have a thankful heart and to do our part in creating love and joy in the world, no matter the season.

Well, I must soon stop typing and get outside into this glorious day. There is still work to be done. My house plants that have benefited from being out under the arbor need to be brought in before the frost, as well as any tomatoes lingering on the vine. Even though I planted my garlic on time, I still have not planted lettuce, spinach, parsley, tah tsai, and radish seeds in my cold frames. Once those seeds are planted, French intensively, Indian summer warmth and regular sprinklings will get them off to a good start. Then, as in many years past, I will have my salad greens through the cold weather. It is amazing how well cold frames work (that is another subject for another article).

I will leave you now with another verse of that wonderful song by Jean Ritchie. It reflects a sentiment that runs deep in the soul of many a person, and cuts to the core of what is precious in life.

“Let go of me summer, let go of me please. I love your slow music, I love your green trees. But I’ve miles for to go now and promises to keep, so let go of me summer, let go of me please!”

Enjoy the season, whichever one is upon you!

Christine is a Master Habitat Naturalist in the State of Maryland and is available for consultations as to how to make your property—no matter now small—wildlife and wildflower friendly. She can be reached at

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