Summer was dying; they all agreed. It was evident in the pallor of her early morning fogs, and in the encroaching coolness of her nights. She was a little slower in getting up in the morning, and evening found her creeping off to bed just a little earlier. She had lost the buoyant enthusiasm of her younger days, when the joy of living burst forth from every green corner.
She seemed to have forgotten the hot, passionate days of her maturity when life sprang forth at her lightest touch. She was content now to while away her days in comparative idleness, where she once approached each new day with a burning zeal. She was dying, it was evident, and she didn’t seem to care.
Let’s cheer her up, they all decided. The Sun tried hard; he beamed his bright rays down upon her somnolent form. He beamed and beamed, but he could not muster up the hot strength that he showed when Summer was in her fullness. Instead, his rays fell gently and benevolently upon hills and valleys, fields and meadows. Too, he came up a tiny bit later each morning, and tucked the sunbeams away for the night a fraction earlier each day.
Summer smiled lazily, and turned her reclining form over to bask in the soothing sunshine.
Let us try, said the Flowers. They began to bloom madly. Fields of purple ironweed lifted regal heads and proudly displayed their royal colors. Huge clumps of wild asters lifted blue-fringed eyes skyward and spread their beauty in all the wayside places, while the lowly gentians framed the ditch lines and creek banks with their paler blue color. The showy yellow goldenrods tried to lighten the atmosphere with their bright color spread over meadows and fields, and the evening primrose glowed with their delicate pale yellow. But the mood was blue; blue.
Summer glanced at them wistfully, and closed her eyes.
We will encourage her, whispered the Grass. Each little blade tried with all his might to spread the velvet softness and lush growth that Summer loved. On hilltop and meadow; in fields and lawns—they tried so hard. But their strength seemed to have gone out—the growth was sparse and straggling.
Summer ran languid fingers through the struggling grass and sighed.
We will serenade her with our music, chirped the Crickets. All day long, they played their tiny fiddles, but the music was so lonely and melancholy that the asters turned bluer. The Katydids tried too, but their vibrant song of Summer’s earlier days had slowed to a funeral dirge. The Crickets began to slow down also, and soon one solitary, mournful tune was all that was heard from a lonely corner.
One lone tear slid down Summer’s face as the forlorn melody died away.
She always loved us, the Birds twittered. So they sang in the treetops of love and life. Soon, however, their melody faltered, and they began to gather in somber groups and move southward, obeying an instinct as old as summer. The Geese honked a doleful farewell as they passed over her.
With a heavy heart, Summer watched them leave.
With a hearty laugh, the Moon said confidently, leave it up to me. I have been as close to Summer as anyone. Many warm, moonlit nights we have spent together. He sent silvery beams upon her weakening form, and waxed fuller and fuller. When his round, yellow orb hung suspended in the night sky, the people cried, Oh, harvest moon, and scurried about to gather the last of their crops. On faraway hills, the hunting dogs lifted their muzzles to the full moon and filled the air with their mournful howls.
Summer wiped a misty moonbeam from her hair and shivered.
The Trees were certain that they could revive her. How she loved our full green leaves, they said. They fluttered their green pennants above her with each errant breeze, trying in vain to rouse her. But alas, in spite of their efforts, the bright green of their leaves were turning, slowly and surely, to scarlet and yellow and bright orange. Some of them became so discouraged that they gave up and drifted to the ground in dispirited fashion.
Summer, resigned, watched them fall.
Then stealthily in the night, the Frost came. While the Moon watched in horror, he laid Summer to waste. He fingered the flowers with chilly fingers of Death, and loosened the leaves on the Trees. He quieted forever the Cricket’s brave song, and then spread a thick layer of white over the Grass. Morning found the Moon slipping over the horizon in shame, and the Sun shone down upon a funereal scene. The blackened heads of the Flowers hung in humiliation, and the Trees were dropping their leaves upon Summer’s prone form.
Summer was gone.
By William Cullen Bryant
Yet one smile more, departing, distant sun!
One mellow smile through the soft, vapouring air,
Ere, o’er the frozen earth, the loud winds ran,
Or snows are sifted o’er the meadows bare.
One smile on the brown hills and naked trees,
And the dark rocks whose summer wreaths are cast,
And the blue Gentian flower, that, in the breeze,
Nods lonely, of her beauteous race the last.
Yet a few sunny days, in which the bee
Shall murmur by the hedge that skims the day,
The cricket chirp upon the russet lea,
And man delight to linger in thy ray.
Yet one rich smile, and we will try to bear
The piercing winter frost, and winds, and darkened air.
November is here, although most of the trees are still garbed in full robes of green, as well as the colorful ones of autumn. I’m glad that the Lord placed us here in the hills where the seasons change, and autumn is a boon to the senses. As it transitions into winter, with the trees at their height of beauty and the splendid sunsets, we can truly say, “The heavens declare the glory of God; and the earth sheweth His handiwork.” (Psalms 19-1)
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