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Septemberland Sept 18 09

It’s still summer, but don’t tell the leaves. A few pioneer maples are already well on the way to full-clad autumn color, the sumac groves are flecked with pointilistic red, and along the roadsides, hints of purple and gold have begun to accent the sassafras.

This is the time of year, this time of slanting sun that antiques the farmlands with golden evening light, when the countryside moves into its loveliest season. The corn is still green and the alfalfa lush, but the soybean fields are turning into patchworks of emerald and yellow, and asters frost the landscape. A rustic, ancient feel is spreading like the goldenrods across the meadows. It is the ambience of September, when summer is not fully over and autumn has not quite arrived. Welcome to Septemberland.

mlSunsetNow is a time when the country roads beckon, and it is good to heed their call. I did so yesterday, driving north beyond Lowell toward Gowen.

It is lake country up that-away. When the glaciers retreated from the area, they left as their legacy a large network of streams, rivers, wetlands, and bodies of water ranging from large, all-sports lakes such as Lincoln, Bass, Maston, Dickerson, and Clifford, to tiny Peterson Lake and Mud Lake (there were, at last count, slightly more than a zillion Mud Lakes in the state of Michigan), as well as scores of nameless ponds.

The rolling landscape is also a crazy quilt of forests, orchards, and farmlands. Not far to the east, just past Greenville and Belding, the vast stretch of the Flat River State Game Area affords decent populations of ruffed grouse and deer. But of course, folks who live out here have their own options for hunting apart from public lands. That’s one of the perks of a lifestyle beyond the reaches of the city.

As for me, well…I’m a scenery junkie. Farming may not be my calling, but I spent my childhood in the country, and the countryside is in my blood, along with my mother’s innate curiosity about what lies over the next hill. This is a beautiful time of year to find out, a time to break up the tedium of life with a drive down the backroads. Set aside the GPS, consult the maps only when you have to, and let your eyes and your thirst for discovery guide you.

Along a dirt road whose name I never paid attention to, I pulled aside during yesterday’s drive to photograph a picturesque farm. The sun was poised just above the horizon, pouring its farewell rays over a long, verdant reach of alfalfa. At the far end, an elegant old farmhouse stood, tucked away in the shade of large, gracious maples. A well-kept, rusty-red barn glowed in the fading light, and toward the end of the field, a couple of horses nibbled at the grass by the woods edge.

A few minutes later and a few miles farther north, I stood on the east shore of Lincoln Lake as the sun finally dipped below the treeline and the twilight drew its curtain across northern Kent County. The flawlessly clear sky had turned from crystal blue to cantaloupe, a saturation of yellow and orange that quickly faded into dim luminescence as the stars winked on.

Daylight no longer lingers perpetually as it does in June and July. This is September, the gateway to autumn’s splendor and the slide toward winter. Apples are ripe in the orchards, and bursts of impossibly purple asters dot the roadside. Septemberland beckons. What are you waiting for? Grab your camera and take a drive.



Written by Dave.