The other morning, in step with some cosmic metronome setting the rhythm of the seasons, baby turtles the size of silver dollars wriggled free of the earth outside our front door.
Their mother, a crocodilian snapper whose travels I have mentioned before, had presented herself during the first week of June. As she does every year, she dug a hollow in which she deposited a clutch of eggs reminiscent of Ping-Pong balls.
As usual, she covered them and lumbered off to shadowy parts unknown, leaving her progeny to summer heat that baked the soil hard. We wouldn’t have bet our hobby farm, in Rhode Island’s Apple Valley, that new life could emerge from her seemingly heedless work.
But each year there’s always a day, as August turns to September, when nature adds a link to the chain of uncountable generations – the baby turtles appear and inch toward the cool and damp of our woodlot.
This is why on the little spread we call Shalom Acres – Shalom meaning peace – the waning of summer is taken more as a promise of renewal than a melancholy signal of an end.
The sunflowers, stems now tall as saplings, are dinner-plate wide and bursting with seeds that pledge their own fidelity to continuance. They’d carry through on their promise if hungry goldfinches would let them. But we’re content to share the bounty, so we’ll buy next year’s seeds at the hardware store.
Late summer brings iridescent hummingbirds and majestic swallowtail butterflies to our home office window, where they gorge on nectar provided by other flowers in the garden just outside.
If you’re interested in a mood uplift, exchange eye-level glances with a hummingbird suspended over a scarlet blossom.
The bounty of late summer is replete with surprises, some of them rare.
The goldfinches are brilliant daily visitors, but never in our 18 years here had we seen the royal blue flutter of an indigo bunting. Obviously enchanted by the late-season bounty, one perched regally the other day on the drying stalk of a long-gone tiger lily.
The indigo is so intensely blue it has been called “a scrap of sky with wings,” a description it richly deserves.
September says a time is nearing to put the gardens to sleep. The garlic is picked and drying and the glut of tomatoes, each heavy in the hand, is slowing.
Soon comes a task that for many is dispiriting; clearing the gardens and seeing them bereft of life and color. Around here, where three miniature horses keep things fertile, this brings treks to the manure pile to recycle what has steadied the pulse of Shalom Acres all summer.
This labor we take not as funereal, but as faith that we are readying the rich, black earth for still another season – and in discomforting 2020, who’s going to argue with that?
Certainly not our predictable snapping turtle. In whatever dark waters she now conceals herself, she senses at the quick that when the gardens of Shalom Acres next green up, she’ll be back with her own crop to sow.
Gerry Goldstein (firstname.lastname@example.org) is a retired Providence Journal editor and columnist who lives in Greenville.)