At summer's end, a golden transition

A warm fog clings to the rain-soaked earth. A few leaves rustle in the treetops. The deep green summer foliage fills the air with the scent of chlorophyll. Soon another sweltering day will ooze over us, and my goats will seek relief in a dark corner of the barn while my house cat sprawls on a window ledge.

Yesterday while driving with the air conditioning blasting on my face, I spied a froth of gold bubbling up amid the swaying roadside grass. Starry crowns of Queen Anne's lace and blue chicory rippled beside the golden plumes. Because of construction, my car was halted in a long line of vehicles waiting to proceed down the fresh tarmac. I studied the landscape to verify that I wasn't looking at black-eyed Susans.

Clumps of the curry-colored composite bloomed along the wayside, but the mustard-colored stalks of goldenrod waved higher in the stiff breeze. I didn't expect to see this rich source of pollen until later. But here it was, the first hint that the days were waning.

This morning, while biking around our farm, I noticed the faintest tinges of red on the silver maples that grow in the lowest part of our bog. Temperatures usually register 10 degrees cooler where those tree roots sink into the peat. A few of the fern-like bracken fronds were turning yellow, and boneset bloomed at the edges of the woods. For the first time, I realized that in the gray light of dawn I no longer awaken to the call of the towhee to "drink my tea."

Clusters of berries still haze the rows of bushes with blue, and in the orchards, peach limbs bend with blushing fruit. The harvest surrounds us. Summer is slipping away. Not long ago I was waiting for the corn silk to turn a bit browner before I picked that first ear. Soon, in the blur of the ongoing harvest, I will pause. The air will be crisp, and the hills will glow with goldenrod.

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