Light in September

In the middle of the night, when I woke to see the picnic table and the bluff nearly as clearly as daytime, the words: “the luster of midday to objects below” filled my sleepy mind. The moonlight, like cold sunlight, cast shadows of house and trees across the lawn. A bright moon often lights nights in an ordinary September, but a clear night is rare in this September of our discontent.

Rain has soaked this September, hijacked the month I have been waiting for, and made me think about the wrongheadedness of expectations. The whole summer drew complaints from locals (I heard last month called “Fogust”). But I didn’t mind, in spite of Washington weather guru Cliff Mass’s reckoning that it was the worst summer in 30 years. (On average, western Washington has 70 summer days over 70° – this year we had 50.) After living in Alaska for so long, my expectations for hot days are low.

But I have grown to have high hopes for September. Virginia Woolf wrote, “all the months are crude experiments out of which the perfect September is made,” and I anticipated stunning fall days with clear blue skies, mellow, tranquil, harmonious days with golden light, sea and earth both warm. I know the summer ends, but want the bonus days.

This particular mid-September featured pouring, washing, drenching rain, warmish Monsoon rains (setting precipitation records). It’s moody weather, indecisive and temperamental. Weather without coherence or stability, full of turbulence and surprise – more spring than fall – blue sky over Victoria and a downpour here. Clouds thin and the garden steams during a pause in the rain. But just as quickly, clouds thicken and the twinkle lights snap on at 11 a.m.

Darkness begins to haunt the edges of these days. It begins imperceptibly and then becomes a way of life. Already we forget the pleasure of waking to light, and I go downstairs grateful for the lamps my husband (the earlier riser) has lit. By the autumn equinox candles light every dinner.

I make a pilgrimage to the Candle Store in town. The bell tinkles on the door and the scent of incense and candle wax from floor to ceiling candle-filled shelves greets me. The selection offered by the cheerful proprietor ranges from beeswax pillars to tapers and tiny votives. I select bright tapers for fall – oranges, warm yellow, an acid green, fire-engine red, and cranberry, purple and blues, warm and cool.

We burn them at dinner in a hodgepodge of candlesticks, mixing candle colors and sizes of holder, so the flames are at irregular heights – five candles for now – seven later when the darkness is more complete.

Candle flames contain the colors of sunsets – and the flicker of fire humans love to gather around. Candlelight is a predictable pleasure. It meets expectations!

One thought on “Light in September

  1. I love how your descriptions inspire pictures in my imagination! September has always been the “sad month” to me but it wasn’t until recently that I figured out why. It stemmed from childhood, the end of summer vacation and the onset of cold weather – I grew up but never outgrew the feeling. I appreciate your perspective because it makes me take a closer look to find the good things in September.
    About candles: One of my favorite ways to use candles is to light them and place them in front of mirrors – it’s amazing how much more light you get from the same source! I love how a single candle can light a whole room when it’s glowing in front of a mirror.

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