Tuesday, September 18, 2012
hard to believe, but by the time early september arrives in coastal maine an evening fire in the fireplace or fire pit not only looks good, but also feels good. the nippiness of some down east end-of-summer evenings points out the fact that burning logs is not always just for the fun of it—for the loveliness of the crackling flames' red and orange displays—but for the practical matter of warmth, even in september, even if you have on socks and fleece.
i always feel a little—just a little—wistful as summer winds down, but i don't miss the high humidity and i do love fall. until recently i hadn't had socks on for months. a pair of flip-flops slipped between my toes and beneath my soles were the preferred, the most enjoyable, companions to my feet; but i say hooray to the possibility of an indian summer and then the crisp days ahead.
our summer visitors have long since packed their bags and suitcases and headed home to go back to their lives and their autumn routines. leaves are already starting to turn and, in many spots, dried and crinkled yellowish and brownish ones litter the lawn. boats will soon be hauled out of the water—sooner rather than later if a hurricane barrels up the eastern seaboard and gets uncomfortably close—and they'll be shrink-wrapped or stored in boathouses; the big yellow school buses rumble down the roads.
at its peak, this summer's monarda was a stunner—it grew to 60 inches—as were many other of the garden's blooms. somehow, though, the deep red naturalizing effect of the bee balm made it my favorite. not only the color, but the minty, spicy, oregano-ish scent was glorious—the bees and hummingbirds thought so, too. i loved it when the scarlet flowers were filled with hordes of fuzzy noisy bees. it was like the balm had moving body parts and was chanting and swaying and stretching its limbs. but it was the bees doing all the work—little puppet masters buzzing from blossom to blossom— forcing the bee balm to perform in jerky motions as if it might just reach out and offer you a green hand.
what i was not thrilled about were the caterpillars that sneakily blended in with the leaves early in the season. they had me downright miffed because i thought the plant might be in trouble from the start. then came the beetles and tiny white worms—or some kind of larvae?—many of which i dispatched with a quick, efficient pinch. (i did a lot of hand washing this summer, that's for sure.) even with all the crawly critters, the plant did fine—more than fine, it was spectacular.
but the bees are now gone from the balm, and the stems stand as if frozen—a vision of things to come—topped with black, dried-out seed pods and crimson bits—the leftovers of summer. no more fiery display, no more razzle-dazzle. the buzzing has moved into the seven shades of phlox, where the bees and hummingbirds are finishing off the last sweet taste of summer before it finally comes to an end.