Appalachia Seasons Smoky Mountains

Sweet September

Today’s guest post was written by Jim Casada.

Fall trees and road

A lot of folks likely share my belief that August is the least appealing of all the months. After all, there’s not a lot positive to be said about the heat and humidity which typically characterize dog days, and all sorts of other negatives can be tacked on the month. For fishermen low water and high temperatures mean trout and other fish are far less active than they were two or three months earlier. Yellow jacket and hornet populations are approaching their seasonal highs and the stinging rascals seem to be particularly ornery. The glories mountain gardens displayed in late June and early July have given way to weeds and cornstalks turning brown, and if you wander around in them much chances of an unwelcome encounter with a packsaddle are all too real. Add snakes on the move and a general sense of lassitude associated with August, and you begin to get the picture. 

Additionally, if you are a youngster, there’s the supposed misery associated with the beginning of a new school year. Truth be told, I always looked forward to resumption of classes with a great deal of eagerness, but as my teenaged granddaughter puts it, to have come right out and admitted as much would have been “social suicide.”

Never mind the anxieties of August though. They are behind us for another year and September is at hand. It’s a grand month, made even more so by the fact that it is the harbinger of what those who love the natural world consider maybe the finest of all months, October.

September in the hills is a visual sensation sporting a coat of many colors. Among those colors none are more vivid or readily noticeable than the many shades of red and scarlet. Dogwood leaves beginning to redden even as the tree’s shiny berries reach lovely maturity to make an arboreal outfit of matching color. Sumac leaves showing splashy splendor along field edges while forming a perfect backdrop to the plant’s reddish-brown clusters of berries. Black gum leaves, looking so slick to the eye that it seems nature has given them a coating of wax, foretell fall with their ruby hue, while the carmine coloration of aptly named cardinal flowers dot branch banks and islands in larger streams.

Ginseng hunters keep an eye out for the tell-tale red of that plant’s berries, perhaps the easiest way to spot this vegetative treasure during the fall harvest season. Similarly, the berries of jack-in-the-pulpit in shady spots encourage one to harken back to the blooming of that graceful wildflower in the greening-up days of spring, and it’s impossible not to wonder how a plant with such a wicked (and deserved) name as devil’s club can be adorned by spires of lovely red berries. Nor should the blood orange clusters of mountain ash be overlooked, because at higher elevations they immediately bring to mind the words of the Romantic era poet, John Keats, “a thing of beauty is a joy forever.”

While nothing stirs the viewer’s eye in quite the same way as those portions of the color spectrum associated with red, it shouldn’t for a moment be supposed that other hues can or should be ignored. Take purple, for example. Tall, graceful Joe Pye weed attracts lovely hordes of butterflies–tiger swallowtails, monarchs, spotted purples, and all sorts of skippers with its dainty purple flowers, while the striking brightness of ironweed draws attention in pastures as one drives along country roads. Pokeweed berries, late maturing elderberries, and American beautyberry all fit into the same color scheme.

Then there are the many and varied hues of yellow. Leaves of poplar trees are among the first to change as autumn approaches, and especially in dry years these tall, straight, and fast-growing succession trees will show significant splotches of gold by Labor Day. Hickories, though, are the true sentinels of fall. Once their foliage turns flaxen with the changing season, the minds of old-time squirrel hunters forthwith focus on being atop a ridge in a grove of these nut-bearing trees as night gives way to light. One of my fondest memories of boyhood traces back to just such a setting high up on a steep ridge where I killed my first bushytail.

Goldenrod, an aptly named plant if ever there was one, may be the bane of allergy sufferers and considered a nuisance in the eyes of farmers, but who can resist a ditch bank, field edge, or roadside laden with this plant in all its glory? Similarly, all of the many varieties of tickseed (coreopsis) sport yellow blooms, and this is their season to shine.

September, in short, is a month of beautiful colors, surpassed only by the palette of October. With that in mind, let’s finish with a few suggestions on how to savor September colors and other aspects of the magical, mesmerizing time when summer gradually gives way to fall.

*Take a walk in the woods and pay close attention to your surroundings. The diamond-sparkling dews of dawn, with temperatures comfortably cool, are a grand time for such jaunts.

*Do a bit of roaming in the gloaming in a local cemetery. If looking westwards towards the sinking sun in such a setting, with rows of tombstones beneath your feet stretching away as if trying to reach the last fading light of another day doesn’t move you, there’s a hole in your soul.

*Sit beside a flowing stream or near a musical waterfall and do nothing but rest, relax, and perhaps contemplate. There are few things finer for a troubled mind than such a respite, and there are few places anywhere more suitable for meditation than right here in the heart of the Smokies.

*Listen while you look, taking note of screaming hawks, busybody crows, perhaps the eerie eight-note call of a barred owl signaling his time to prowl (night) is at hand, and most of all songbirds instinctively recognizing that they best celebrate comfortable weather while they can. Like songbirds, September sings a sweet, seductive song, and her siren call is, at least for me, irresistible.


I hope you enjoyed Jim’s post as much as I did! Be sure to jump over to his website. You can sign up for his free monthly newsletter and check out the plethora of books he has for sale.

Last night’s video: 3 Of My Favorite Cushaw Recipes.

Tipper

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15 Comments

  • Reply
    Gigi
    September 27, 2021 at 10:25 am

    What a wonderful post Tipper. Fall is my favorite time of year. It’s kinda like Spring but different in many ways. Every thing comes to life. So beautiful. different colors all around us. So beautiful what God has given us to enjoy.

  • Reply
    PinnacleCreek
    September 24, 2021 at 12:59 pm

    To be that so in tune with nature, and to be able to write about it in such an elequent way is truly a gift. It shows Jim has spent many hours in the woodlands and knows it like one knows a best friend. Thanks so very much for allowing us to see September through your eyes.

  • Reply
    AWGRIFF
    September 24, 2021 at 11:38 am

    Jim took me down memory lane. I love Sept. and Oct. I thought about the hickory groves and the many bushytails taken through the years. When there were no hickory nuts I would look for blackgum berries or dogwood berries. I thought too about climbing a hill so steep I was getting hold of whatever bush or sapling to make it to the top. I almost grabbed hold of a small devil’s club. They have huge thorns all over their trunk. Snakes! My friend was mowing our shooting lane from the bench to the 100 yd. target and killed a copperhead with a lawnmower. A short time later my brother killed another one with his bushhog. This year he has killed one with the bushhog and another one has been run over at the mouth of the holler.

  • Reply
    Ray Presley
    September 24, 2021 at 11:07 am

    Jim’s posting reminds me of the joys of nature as I was growing up. There’s just something special about being able to identify various plants or to plant something and watch it grow. It’s sorta like having kids, nurturing them to adulthood and then still watching over them, helping them to avoid some of the things that can clutter our lives, etc. Thanks, Jim for those vivid thoughts and thanks to Tipper for including your piece in today’s postings.

  • Reply
    Christine
    September 24, 2021 at 10:39 am

    Beautifully written!

  • Reply
    dee
    September 24, 2021 at 10:01 am

    Jim’s descriptive post on September brings back many beautiful scenes of my growing up years enjoying the outdoors. My father fished and hunted but his passion lay in training bird dogs and hunting pheasant and quail. As a little girl, I was a daddy’s girl and even though I never carried a gun, I traipsed behind him into the woods when he was hunting squirrels, and crossed many little creeks, loving the sights and sounds of the forest. In my late 70’s now, I still have those precious memories that feed my soul and there is no doubt it has been passed on to our sons too. I still love to park by a little stream and watch the trout jump to grab a bite of whatever is hatching on the water. Just watching the water move slowly by cascading over some rocks is a drink of beauty that few other sights can invoke.

  • Reply
    Patricia Wilson
    September 24, 2021 at 9:35 am

    Simply lovely! Thank you…

  • Reply
    Shirl
    September 24, 2021 at 9:26 am

    Jim, your post certainly painted a pretty picture that helped me see some beauty in my least favorite time of the year. Mom loved ‘sang’ hunting, always looking for berries or a ribbon she tied around the plant earlier in the year. I doubt she ever cashed in on her treasures but she enjoyed finding it just the same. She could identify sang and about every edible plant that grew in the hills of KY. She liked to say she could spot certain plants a mile away.

  • Reply
    Larry Paul Eddings
    September 24, 2021 at 9:20 am

    I found myself nodding in agreement with Jim over and over again as he beautifully described the wonders of September in Appalachia.

  • Reply
    Ron Stephens
    September 24, 2021 at 8:32 am

    Mr. Casada sure has a way with words. He is so right that summer gets old and tired itself and in a degree tiring to us, especially to vegetable gardeners. We are ready for the change of season just like nature is .

    I just wonder if anybody has ever taken the time and trouble to try to categorize plants by their fall colors. It might seem easy just at first but the longer one thinks about it the bigger the task grows. The colors would not be neatly single but rather sometimes blends of several and even if a single color still with varying intensities.

    This time of year if I am around a walnut tree I like to just pick one and carry to smell the husk. It would sure make a great guy soap smell if it could be captured.

  • Reply
    SusieQ
    September 24, 2021 at 8:08 am

    Oh, I really did enjoy Jim’s post …especially all the suggestions … all senses ,lingering over and savoring all before and around you… As I read , I almost felt like a vase being filled up with a many hued bouquet of loveliness … Yes isn’t it so nice … Remembering those times in September … even as you are taking thought , to make new ones . It’s lovely outside ☕️

    • Reply
      SusieQ & Donnie Ray (Happy Campers)
      September 24, 2021 at 9:21 am

      After enjoying Jim’s post, and commenting, as I was going about morning to do’s I wanted to adda little more to it… for many years ,we have and still do enjoy going camping….for all the many suggestion / joys that Jim listed and more… we do enjoy those things around home the ways he mentioned too… but when we go camping ( like we are fixing to do shortly) , for 10-12 days ,sometimes more ,we go away from home and it’s daily routines (with strategic planning)(we’re older) ☺️ so we can stop to linger a bit long over fun and delightful things, .. Lately it’s been a bit hard to find a time to go. My husband and his twin though retired, work at the church school as Custodians/helpers, so we needed to wait till fall break…. and because of Covid -19.. after attending a household shower a few weeks back good number of people contracted it, from those without symptoms till right at the shower, including my sister , her husband ,the young couple having the shower, and her mother..and a few more . My sister ended up needing to be hospitalized a couple of days as did the other mother. They thankfully after many prayers and helps have recovered and are in the process of recovering still in the hospital. So us family rallied around them to help ,bring food ,shop for groceries,and get meds, mow yards ,,every day saying what can we do today to help what do ya need…that’s family … So now we are so so thankful to say we are going camping – with our family still with us -…to stop awhile and enjoy the lovely things Jim mentioned,, is there anything nicer than a good campfire, a few guitars and so much ” Smores”….stopping to number our days and get us a heart of wisdom… but even morello savor my family ,their voices, their presence. There are those near around us that did not recover from contracting this virus in months past. Love and hugs to ya all … P.S. Goldenrods are our state flower ,they are everywhere 🙂

  • Reply
    Miss Cindy
    September 24, 2021 at 7:24 am

    It’s good to be reminded of the glorious gifts of these mountains and so refreshing following all the drama of the last year and a half—or so. We are richly blessed and all we have to do to know it is look around. Yes, our world is glorious!
    Thanks for the reminder!

  • Reply
    Dena Westbrooks
    September 24, 2021 at 6:31 am

    Beautifully written piece about September and I totally agree August is the pits for all the listed reasons.
    I must however defend the beautiful native goldenrod. It is not the culprit of fall allergies, ragweed which blooms about the same time is the reason we have itchy eyes and sneezes.
    Goldenrod is a wonderful nectar plant for all our butterflies on the verge of migrating!!
    Really enjoy this blog and all the guest writers, this is my heritage and my people.

    • Reply
      Patricia Wilson
      September 24, 2021 at 9:39 am

      Ragweed – one of the most aptly named plants of all time! It does battle with my body every fall. Goldenrod, the state flower of my home state, Kentucky, does not deserve blame for the misery caused by ragweed.

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