August has been called the bridge from summer to autumn. Well, we’ve crossed over now, and autumn can come in its fullness. It’s worth waiting for–this incomparable season in the West Virginia hills. It’s not only lovely to view, but it must be absorbed. I love it.
I wrote a farewell letter to Summer, and I’d like to share it.
“Summer: I heard the katydids tolling your death knell last night. In fact, this lonely, haunting dirge has sounded out for weeks now. They are singing of change, and cold, and a white, creeping death that will come to Summer and Singer alike.
You don’t look as if you are dying, Summer. In the midst of your lush, green fullness, it seems absurd to speak of death and decay. Yet there are unmistakable signs that your days are numbered. There is a sad air of decadence hovering over your gardens now, with dry and withered cornstalks entwined with wreaths of gay morning glories.
Your mountains are still dressed in full flowing robes of green, but here and there is a tinge of yellow at the border of your garments. There is an almost imperceptible difference in your night air, and the morning mist seems to linger a little longer each day. A streak of yellow goldenrod is now appearing in your tresses, and you will have to admit that you are changing, Summer.
I remember those early days when you first came into my life. You were so young and tender, and full of promise. Spring had left, and I was ready for you. You were bursting with new life, and eager to begin each day. What beautiful times we had together! Remember how we explored the fields and woods, reveling in the teeming new life that was visible everywhere? You showed me the robin’s nest, hidden in the lilac bush, with the tiny, naked birds; their wide, yellow bills agape.
You pointed out the intricately woven nest of the Vesper Sparrow, its wee white eggs spotted with brown, cleverly concealed in the tall meadow grasses. You brought me the first roses of the season–masses of pink and red rambler roses tumbling over fence and trellis, and the brilliant scarlet tea roses that perfumed the air with their fragrance. Summer, you brought me so much–but you were so unpredictable.
You almost overpowered me with your early rains that seemed to go on and on. I never doubted your intense feeling for me, but the hot, passionate sun you sent was almost too much for me. You have freely given of your wildflowers that still enhance the fields and roadsides. Orange butterfly weed flames amid the frothy beauty of Queen Anne’s lace, and the true blue of the chicory weed abounds. Goldenrod and purple ironweed make a harmonious picture. You are still beautiful, Summer, yet you are leaving me.
When you first came, I knew you couldn’t stay. Yet with your serene days and balmy quiet evenings, I was lulled into the false security that you would last forever. Now you are showing signs that tell me you truly will go-
I have noticed that your songbirds no longer sing so lustily at daybreak, and at evening time I see clusters of them moving about sort of uneasily. Even their daytime song is almost drowned out by the mournful song of the crickets that sing all day long. I find myself wishing you could stay, but you never promised me that; not even from the beginning.
I know that when you leave, you will be taking so many things with you. The green from the trees and meadows, the flowers that bloom by the wayside, the hot sunshine and birdsong–these things you will pack and take. You will linger awhile longer, though. There will still be hot days, and calm evenings together when we will sit in the porch swing and enjoy each other’s company.
You won’t leave me bereft–it makes my heart race to know you will be sending your sister Autumn to take your place. I love her so much! God sent you and I have loved you, Summer. I have had eyes to see your loveliness, ears to hear the song of robin and cardinal, and a heart to appreciate the things you have given. But oh! I can hardly wait for Autumn!
Last chapter of BO Plenty–
BO threw one temper tantrum during our acquaintance. I had taken to visit a friend who also had a skunk from the same litter. The two of them were overjoyed, rolling and nibbling, charging and growling for an hour. When I decided to come home, BO showed his displeasure. In his anger he writhed and growled, and became impossible to hold. When released, he pounded the ground with his forelegs, growling and spitting, and began to make threatening motions. For the first time, I gave ground to let his anger subside. It didn’t. Impatient, I picked him up kitten-style by the nape of the neck, and then he released that pungent odor. It was not the choking, blinding spray that he was capable of, but merely an oozing from the scent glands. I carried him at arm’s length and dunked his backside in the lake. His tantrum over, we were the best of friends again.
By early fall BO’s nocturnal restlessness was increasing. He had never been penned, and was housebroken, but more and more he wanted to be outdoors at night. The outdoor visits became longer until he disappeared for three full days. On the fourth night, Mom saw him by the patio light in a neighbor’s yard. Uncertain that it was the right skunk, she warily called to him and he bounded up to her in typical fashion. After a bowl of milk and a joyous reunion, the two of them settled in a chair. I found them there, both sound asleep, when I returned later that evening.
BO left again the following night and we never saw him again. He answered a call that humans cannot hear or understand. I knew he was equipped for survival, and several nights hence there were less than subtle hints that he was using his equipment.
Sixty-three years have passed since that heart-warming experience. On summer nights, as I walk near the woods where one of BO’s relatives has written his signature on the wind, my little striped friend comes charging across the years and I am not offended.
The End–written by Frank S. M. Samples (Cousin Bobby)
(I wish to thank everyone for the beautiful birthday cards, email messages, and loving expressions. How I love you all!)