Summer without excess - a little strumming on September Song

September is a tough month for those who look behind. It means the end of summer. September is a tough month for those who look ahead, too. In the first yellow leaf a futurist foresees the cold breath of winter.

But if you live September the way the philosophers tell us to live life - one day at a time - what a golden month it can be!

People who go by the calendar, boxing their white shoes and filing away their swimsuits after Labor Day, don't know what they're missing. A fair amount of September is existential summer - summer in practice if not in theory. Summer without the fiery bite.

The water is milder than in June. The air mostly keeps you warm, just short of hot. Your tan stays on hold - without a burn.

Early September is summer without excess. Summer minus the sweat and drip and sting.

September is summer in a state of emotional maturity - not trying to prove anything.

September nights lift summer's siege - the round-the-clock heat wave. No longer does humidity wrap you like a soggy blanket. Speaking of blankets, what a delight it is to pull up a blanket when you sleep!

Out of the tropics. Back to a temperate clime - sweet, sweet phrase.

Off with that mixed blessing, the air conditioner! In September you can take the climate without either fans or furnace - and still feel like working.

In fact, September is a great month for starting things. There's the natural rhythm of back-to-school. When the thermometer drops below 80 degrees, the mind seems to turn curious again. A lot of authors have found September the season to begin a book. A lot of couples get married in September - in fall a slightly-less-than-young man's fancy appears to turn to love.

Second only to January, September may be the month of good resolutions. September is serious.

The silly T-shirts, full of a long hot summer's worth of holes and stains, begin to disappear. The sandals-and-shorts crowd at the supermarket begin to cover up their mostly less-than-breathtaking sights. (''Me not Tarzan. You not Jane.'')

September is civilization returning.

Yet September is not disenchantment - rather, a mellowed and reasonable hope. The harvest still lies ahead. The ants may have taken over from the grasshoppers , but they're cheerful ants. No bells toll. It's just that the wild, dreamy season has finally ended, and the music turns a little pensive. Tune in, for instance, on ''Autumn Nocturne.''

Like its slowly coloring leaves, September abandons the monotone - gets rich and complicated.

The knowledge that it is not going to last forever gives September a wistful charm while also heightening the value of day-to-day life.

Who would want the illusion of summer to last forever? Who could ask for it to end with more grace?

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