Regina Geoghan: Summer’s Last Hurrah

Late Summer-Early Fall blooming goldenrod, English False Willow, Pensylvania Smart Weed, Bonset and other wildflowers blooming amonst the reeds and grasses of the marsh landscape at Mill Creek Marsh, NJ Meadowlands.

Many, many thanks to Regina Geoghan for sending in this beautifully written piece on the last days of summer. We look forward to more articles from Regina!

On one of the first days of autumn, the late morning sun was warm and bright, a slight breeze rustled the tree branches and grasses, the tide was low, and all was blissfully quiet with the exception of the delightful chatter and peeps of birds.

Visiting Mill Creek Marsh in Secaucus, I had hoped to find some early fall color to photograph but there wasn’t much to see. In fact, at first glance, the marsh environment seemed disappointingly drab and forlorn. Overgrown trees and shrubs drooped over the pathways, creating deep shadows. Dried leaves littered the ground. Summer had passed the seasonal baton to fall but somehow didn’t seem ready to give him any glory.

Monarch butteflies at Mill Creek Marsn NJ Meadowlands

Feeling a little depressed at the evidence that summer was truly gone, I continued on my walk. It didn’t take long before it seemed that she was whispering in my ear to not give up on her quite yet. My mindset and focus changed and, sure enough, there were indeed signs of her handiwork to be found.

Yellow goldenrod, in clusters along the paths, invited me to look closer at the plant life and the late summer color that remained. Everywhere I walked, clouds of ivory white flower clusters were perched atop tall, bushy Eastern False Willow shrubs. Pink Pennyslvania smart weed flowers still shyly blended in with fading Queen Anne’s Lace and more.  Marsh grasses and reeds seemed to glow from her warmth as they swayed to the rhythm of the wind.

A landscape view of goldenrod and other marsh reeds with a blue sky compliment – taken at Mill Creek Marsh in the NJ Meadowlands, Secaucus NJ.

It was clear that summer’s touch was fading away, but in the quiet peacefulness and marsh breeze, it felt as though she was taking huge deep breaths and letting them out slowly and gently as though to prolong her last moments. Here and all around the Meadowlands, she is stubbornly attending to her last tasks of the year and leaving her mark on the land to ensure that all is in order before she leaves to wrap her warm, embracing arms around another part of the world.

Flowers that she nurtured through the late summer are drying up but their seeds will drop to the ground or be carried on the wind to feed wildlife and ensure new flowers in the spring. Many still have golden yellow pollen and nectar for the last bees and butterflies to feed on, while asters, obedient plant, and others are still in bloom.

Sunflowers have dropped their darkened heads, seemingly in defeat. But in fact they are bending down from the weight of their seeds, offering them to birds to fatten them for winter or to power their migration to winter grounds. Trees and shrubs that grew taller and fuller under her care are losing their green pigment and will soon drop their leaves. But for now they are creating berries and nuts and acorns for birds and other wildlife who need them to survive the winter. While they may be the products of autumn, they are the result of summer’s labor.

Driving home, the beautiful words of the Bible and the song kept repeating in my head: “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven: A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted……”

Fall is gradually evolving to peak time and beauty as nights cool down, daylight hours shorten, and the last fruits and vegetables are ripening for harvest.  Summer, however, isn’t quite ready to let go. During these warm, sun-filled days she is having a last ‘hurrah’ before departing to remind us that she has paved the way for autumn beauty and bounty, set plans in place for winter rest, and prepared for spring renewal so that all will ready to greet her when she returns in her season.


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