Once again today we are socked in with thick smoke. It comes from wildland fires miles away, but settles in our valley. Some days less, more often so thick that you can’t see a half a mile away. Today is another one of those days; visibility is less than a quarter of a mile, ash is falling and coating everything and the Montana Department of Environmental Quality says our air is very unhealthy. It is so bad in southwestern Montana that many outdoor activities have been canceled, including Friday night sports.
Like so many Montanans I am looking forward to winter. Not because I relish an early winter, but because most days this fall have been covered in smoke. In the snow and cold I can put on more clothing, but in air this smokey you can not really do anything but stay indoors. And like so many it quickly drives me nuts to be confined inside. So if my choice is smoke or snow I say bring on the snow!
August in the high country is nothing like August of the Midwest. Growing up, August in northern Illinois was really just an extension of summer. It is full of hot days and nights nearly as hot. It seemed that even if the the first day of summer was in July, it got only hotter in August. Even as children we sought relief in shade, playing in sprinklers and eating frozen Popsicles. I remember you did not think summer was on its way out until you heard the cicadidae making the sounds that came only after the hottest days of summer and the days were getting shorter.
At our place August is the month that really is the transition between summer and autumn. Already the days belong to summer and the nights are become very fall like. During the day you may want to wear sleeveless tops and shorts enjoying those hot summer temps, but at night keep the blankets close by. Last week it was in the 40’s one night, though I had no hint of that during the day. I was snuggling up to my husband who just a few weeks ago was telling me don’t touch me it is too hot.
August in Montana is also prime fire season. What little rain we get has long since stopped. The grasses in lawns have gone dormant, and the rangeland plants are cured to tinder dry. We start to get dry thunderstorms and with that we see more fires starts. Our fire season with the drought has come early and it is hard to believe with all that has burnt already we are just enter the start of the traditional season. Some of the fires that start now may only really be gone once the snow starts to fly.
August may be the only month that is completely in the season of summer, but for me it is a bit of an oxymoron month. August can’t really decided if it is summer or autumn and so it splits its time between both seasons.
We have a autumn in southwest Montana, but it is so short and different than those of the midwest that I always feel a little robbed each year. I grew up on a street of sugar maples and so they were always full of colors each fall. Then there is the smell or rotten leaves after they have all fallen. Finally there is the smell of burning leaves. I miss all of that tonight.
It is amazing to me how quickly the days get shorter once the first day of summer happens. The sun is setting earlier and it is dark by 8 in the evening and still dark at 6 in the morning. It makes me blue to think that I have to endure another three months of the days getting shorter.
Labor day is the holiday that is often thought of as the final weekend of the summer. I am not sure why that is so as the autumnal equinox won’t happen for another 3 weeks. So many of us look forward to summer, why do we want to let go of it before we must?
Many kids have just returned to school or will Tuesday right after Labor day. Maybe the fact that they are no longer on school break is why we think summer is over.
There will be no more 3 day weekends where we can enjoy a camping trip or an afternoon picnic. The fact that this the last of the three major summer holidays may be why we think is not only the last holiday, but also the beginning of fall.
All I can say is enjoy Labor Day weekend, it is one of the last of the summer, but the not the last!
Well tonight is the first frost warning of the season. The Midwest girl in me just insists that August isn’t time for the end of summer, and I am not going to call it quits. My flowers are just coming into their own and some are just getting ready to bloom for the first time. I have not yet got one ripe tomato off my plants and they are full of many possibilities. So I got tarps out for my flower gardens, covered my tomato pots with garbage bags, and thrown towels over my deck planters. I ran a little short on tarps so I have a few feet of my flower wall that is going to risk the elements. It looks a little trashy but for the night it is worth it to keep the summer going a little longer. Keep your fingers crossed that this clear high altitude night doesn’t get as cool as predicted.
Last night it was in the 30’s here. That in Montana language means fall is not far away, and I have been bitten by the fall fever bug.
Fall fever is worse than spring fever. With spring fever we all anticipate what will come. The days are getting longer and warmer. Fall fever is different in that you have been given a warning that the number of days are limited before winter sets in. The hours of daylight are already getting shorter. Warm coatless days are doing their swan song. We start to see a few more days with overcast and showers.
Once we realize fall is just around the corner we beginning to think about those things on our summer good-weather to-do list that never got done. It is the start of the big push time. Rush to get this done and that done before winter sets in. When fall fever sets in we start to drop things from our chore list knowing that this is not the year it will get done and that it will have to wait one more year. Fall is the time we realize we didn’t take the hike to that breathtaking summer mountain lake and drop in a fishing line. We are disappointed we didn’t picnic or get out and hike more more. Fall is the time when we ask ourselves where has another year gone?
Once bitten by fall fever I have a tough time staying in the office. I look outside and see the warm sunny day and know those days are limited. I have the overwhelming desire to get outside and take a little hike or read a book in the hammock. I can’t succumb to that urge to head outside every time fall fever urges hit, but I will allow myself to do so as much as I can. Fall is a good time to store up good memories to take us through the long cold winters of Montana.