small (almost) September songs



In the night, footfall on the roof. In moonlight, a raccoon on its way back from feasting on the grapes over the western pergola. Thump as it jumped from roof to upper deck just by John’s pillow. Through white curtains, the moonlight guided it home. And now a bowl of grapes on the counter because as one friend reminded me, The raccoons know the exact moment they are ripe. Through white curtains tonight, we will hear them rummaging among the leaves, rummaging in disappointment.



Waiting for the ping of lids as jars of peach and rosemary preserves cool on the counter beside the spiced blueberry preserves with vanilla. Waiting for the ping, I see a fan of wings against the big window. Not a robin in the lilac — too big. Not a Steller’s jay whistling for the morning seeds. Wiping my hands on my apron, I open the door to see a merlin hawk gliding over the stairs leading down from the pergola. So was that the strange call I heard earlier? Not the Steller’s jay. Not the woodpeckers down in the big cedars beyond the old orchard. I am listening to Steve Earle sing about the low highway and I am thinking, thinking of a late September trip to Edmonton if all goes well, following the Fraser, then the Thompson, then the Fraser again near its headwaters, and then the mountains.

As I roll on the down the low highway
Travelling now
On the low highway
By the yellow moon
And the light of day
From the snow white crown
Of the mountain tall
To the valley down
Where the shadows fall


zinnia, drenched

In the greenhouse, misting the tall pepper plants, the eggplants, the vivid bougainvillea, scented geraniums, I was trying to figure out the best way to keep things watered while we drive to the Smoky Lake Pumpkin Festival as September turns into October. We haven’t been away from home since last October for John’s surgery and things have changed. We have a greenhouse, we have wanderlust. We have ordered a timer for the hose that snakes through the stone base of the greenhouse and comes up through the sand and pebbles along the western side. A mister? A small sprinkler set on the long wild-edged bench along that side? As I am thinking, a tree frog chirps. Chirps as the cool mist settles on the leaves of the eggplants and zinnias, as the raccoons turn in their shelter and dream of grapes in moonlight, as the jars ping on the counter, as Steve Earle’s beautiful gravelly voice carries me forward into fall.

Cross the rivers wild
And the lonesome plains
Up the coast and down
And back again

2 thoughts on “small (almost) September songs”

  1. Here in Ontario this summer the grapes, both wild and cultivated, have grown more prolifically than I can remember in decades. Perhaps I will finally be able to eat some or make wine. Am I benefitting from climate change?

    1. We grow the deck grapes more for leaf (shade) than for fruit. But this year, and last, the crop was pretty good! They’re table grapes so not good for wine. But years ago friends who have Foch grapes asked me to take some. I did, and made wine with them, laboriously juicing them in a big galvanized wash tub, going through all the steps carefully. Wine was almost undrinkable. I say “almost” because a friend who stayed here the next summer LOVED it. And didn’t I feel generous, sending him home with a case! I might make jelly with these deck grapes but they taste pretty good just as they are. Good luck with yours. And good luck to our poor hot planet.

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