O Lord, thank You for zinnias, which I plant every year because they add flower fireworks to my yard; rarely have to be fed or watered; and finally, OMG, thank You for making them tall enough to hide my almost-September garden from the neighbors.
Recently, I made the mistake of riding my bike on a nearby college campus, as I had all summer. I ruled the empty sidewalks during July and August, zooming between buildings, rocketing out of parking lots.
Once I surprised a faculty member who fled for his life, open briefcase snowing hundreds of papers on the ground. There also was that time I barged into a band camp, when my bike took out an entire row of tubas.
For the most part, though, no one challenged my reign as Queen of the Bike Routes. Even football camp guys, forever headed for the dining hall, knew better than to dispute my supremacy.
However, as of the beginning of the school year, I have decided to abdicate. Biking to a writers’ meeting on campus, I encountered swarms of young pedestrians who, just because they paid tuition, thought they deserved to use the sidewalks. Some clumped into bunchy obstacles. Others joined in two-way snaky lines that condemned me to following them at three miles per hour — or shaking my liver loose by riding alongside them on the grass. Couples — chained together by a love so strong, even a bulldozer couldn’t separate them — meandered directly in front of me.
As I rode, I ran nonstop evaluations as to whether approaching walkers were in their right minds. Were they tethered to iPods, glued to cell phones or tapping texts to aliens several solar systems away? Such mindsets (or the lack thereof, due to the absence of brain waves) threaten the safety of cyclists and pedestrians alike.
Frisbee golfers comprise a different threat. Deep inside, I cannot condemn these young whippersnappers who, snapping their arms, whip Frisbees so close they trim my nose hairs. My son, studying at a different college, was a member of that club. But when fleets of Frisbees, like the fighters in Star Wars movies, chase an old lady biking to her writing meeting, I say, “Enough is enough.”
Having resigned my position as Queen of the Campus Bike Routes, I have resorted to walking. Now moving at the speed of life instead of lightning, I hear words I didn’t while glorying in my cycling omnipotence: “Excuse me,” “Pardon me,” “I’m sorry, I didn’t see you,” and plenty of smile-filled “Hi!”s. They remind me that the college pedestrians in our area rank among the most courteous in the world.
It’s the wild, crazy cyclists who worry me.
Your Extraordinary Ordinary: Have you lived on/near a college campus? What changes did September bring?
In our September garden, we grow the best weeds in the Midwest.
The hubs and I nurtured this elite crop all summer. Yet — can you believe this? — no one awarded us a grand champion ribbon.
Last spring, my husband, risking vitality and vertebrae, rented a tank-like tiller to prepare the soil. We planted the highest quality vegetable seeds and plants. Why? They attract the highest quality weeds.
I fertilized the garden, nurturing early weed development. Hubby shoveled mulch between rows, providing moisture.
With this year’s bullying June rains, I feared our weed crop would float downriver. But despite such watery adversity, they grew strong.
At first, the dastardly efforts of vegetables and flowers were winning. Rain morphed scrawny tomato seedlings into scary green monsters. Lettuce, carrots and peppers crowded out crabgrass and ragweed. Berry bushes actually produced berries.
Insidious squash vines crushed the life out of purslane and poison ivy. Squash — a fitting name for such invaders, don’t you think?
But squash aggression could not match barbaric cucumbers that wound deadly vines around helpless clover and cockleburs. They even turned against their allies, the zinnias, hanging fat-bellied cucumbers around the zinnias’ skinny necks like fifty-pound pendants!
Cucumber reproduction surpassed that of rabbits. I fled through nightmares in which thousands of cucumbers chased me, finally pickling me in a giant Ball jar.
Fortunately, other allies supported the weeds. After record-breaking rains, July drought sucked out the vegetables’ fighting spirit. The brave weeds, however, persevered.
Area animals also came to the weeds’ rescue. Deer sacrificially forsook hundreds of acres of wild food to munch our garden’s green beans, tomatoes, and peppers. Bunnies wiped out berries, saving us from the sad necessity of eating them. Squirrels stole cherry tomatoes. As they could not carry Big Boys in their mouths, they contributed by taking one bite out of all they could reach.
I did question the knee-high weeds’ newest allies: chiggers. But what are a few thousand itchy bumps compared with the joys of paying high prices for store-bought vegetables that taste like Styrofoam?
Despite trials and tribulations, we weed-growers will never give up. When hostile vegetables and flowers multiply, we enjoy the deep-down satisfaction of giving our all to cultivate the finest crop this side of Green Acres.
Even if we receive no purple ribbon — not even a participation one — to hang on our wall.
Even if we never see our picture in the paper.
We will not lose hope.
There is always next year.
Which won your garden battle this year? The veggies or the weeds?
Are you glad to see September? I’ve already risen to give it a standing ovation.
After a summer of doing our own thing, we’re ready to sit up straight, pay attention and do our homework. Our worldview morphs from beach to businesslike. Surprising in a baggy-shorts person like me, not given to button-down impulses. That’s the magic of September.
I admit to a fall fetish. Air conditioning bills drop, and heating bills have not yet rocketed. Warm weather seems more a treat and less like a punishment. Nights cool down—better snuggling weather, when we can set ceiling fans on “breeze” instead of “tornado.” It’s not an accident the world’s longest kiss, 17 days and 10.5 hours, was recorded in September (1984), not June.
Inexplicably, huggy family events, such as reunions, take place during sweaty summers. Still, the completion of family reunion attendance requirements adds to September satisfaction. We’ve seen every relative who swings from our family tree, eaten our quota of fried chicken and Aunt Gertie’s potato salad, laughed at Uncle Izzy’s jokes and rescued numerous state parks from our cousin’s kids who play with matches. We had a good time.
And we won’t have to do it again until Christmas.
Sure, September gets crazy. But what do we expect from a month that gave us Confucius, Dr. Phil and Shamu the Killer Whale? A month in which we can wear flip-flops or boots? Sweaters or swimsuits? A month that celebrates “Be Late for Something Day” on the fifth and “Fight Procrastination Day” on the sixth?
Bottom line, September is all about changes, most of them good.
All part of the Great Designer’s celebration. In dressing September for the occasion, He spares no expense. Before long, He will clothe sumac in scarlet ribbons. He’ll gild trees with gold and embroider their leaves with russet threads.
He gives us lavish fields of goldenrod and chains of butterfly-brilliant morning glories that spiral up cornstalks and mailboxes. Cicada concerts still grace our nights, as the frosts have not yet arrived.
God gives us September, the best of summer, the best of fall.
Perhaps the very best of all.
We’re not the only ones applauding His artistry. “All the trees of the field will clap their hands” (Psalm 55:12).
Soon they’ll throw confetti, too.
What about you? Which season do you like best?