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September Gold Sept 12 08

I recognize this light. It is the mellow light of a late-summer afternoon, the slanting rays that gild the landscape of golden September. Streaming out of the soft blue sky past shining cloud rims, this is the light that burnishes Michigan’s fields and forested hills as lush August gives way to the wise, ancient autumn.

September is the golden month.

Now—when the soybean fields turn yellow and the green-clad corn changes to flaxen—now is when the hidden processes of the leaves start to show, when their mysterious, light-activated alchemy lends an aureate glow to the trees.

Have you noticed the goldenrods? They are everywhere, lining the roadsides and dotting the meadows with splashes of buttery brightness. I remember goldenrod from my childhood; it was one of the more entertaining plants that grew in the field next to our burn barrel in Niles, Michigan. The yellow flowers ripen into fluffy, cream-colored seed heads that make fabulous tinder and a cheap form of incendiary amusement for nine-year-old-boys superintending the burning of trash.

Not everything about September is golden. The pokeberry, fecund with dark purple berries set against exuberant, emerald leaves and ruddy stalks, stands like a harlequin against a mellow backdrop of gilded fields and aging corn.

Yesterday I took a drive down the backroads of northern Barry county, south of Middleville toward Hastings and then west through the Yankee Springs area. The coffers of September were open, glowing beneath an azure canopy daubed with delicate cirrus. The first autumn-gold leaves hung from the roadside trees like Spanish doubloons, tall rows of yellowing corn stretched into the distance, and goldenrod crowded the verge in boisterous clusters. Tiger-orange monarch butterflies flitted among the plants, girding themselves for their remarkable southern migration.


In a spot where the curvy road wound between a green-and-yellow hillside of alfalfa on my left and an army of corn on my right, I pulled aside and grabbed my camera. This is a time of year in Michigan, from now through October, when nature overflows with images worth capturing. One good location is all you need, and I had found such a spot.

I snapped photos to my heart’s content, a strange luxury for one brought up on film photography. Digital single lens reflex cameras are a marvel! But a decent picture can still require a bit of work. There was no way I could do justice to a solomon’s seal growing by the field edge without getting down to its level.

The result was worth the effort. For me, it is the crowning touch of the day, and a fitting emblem of September gold.





Written by Dave.