Normally in the summer, especially in the South, folks are more than ready to give up on iced Mocha lattes, bath-like swimming pools, walnut-colored tans and feeling as hot as a firecracker wrapped in a steamed towel. So, we Southern natives usually run, not walk, into this yearly transition from summer to September. I relish the first morning I step out for my walk and can sense it coming. It’s still hot as blazes, but there’s a stir in the air … the subtlest cool breeze rustling the green, shining leaves not yet ready to give up and turn to vibrant, foreboding hues.


Then, little by little the days become shorter while the world readies for the transition. The September Solstice forces us to call on our reserves to continue on through fall and winter. Kind of like the Hackberry Tree or better known as a “Trash Tree.” Its lumpy and scaly bark may be overlooked or even regarded as “ugly,” but tree experts commonly herald it as “one tough tree.” To make sure your eyeballs don’t miss out on this tree, it grows to 80’ tall and lives about 100 years, so there it is before you with its most unattractive self. You may think it’s dead but there is a lot going on underneath that tree during the September Solstice. Even in winter, this tree is constantly working to produce shade for us in warmer months.


Due to COVID, our lack of activity surprisingly began in early March and as the virus cranked up, we realized there were things we must do without at this time. Meaning, there is not much to miss during the seasonal transition of 2020. We could not splash with friends in our pools, enjoy cocktails on a crowded patio, or attend summer concerts late into the warm evenings this year. We had to rewind our lives and learn to be alone, collectively. Silence is never an easy task, especially as we await the uncertainty of winter during the virus.


This September Solstice makes us live in an introverted world due to the virus. There is still going to be a renewal of sorts of the earth but people will be more mindful of living now, rather than waiting excitedly for fall weather, hot mochas and flannel. The effects of seasonal change are profound on our mental health, throw in Coronavirus, and our world is totally rocked. Our routines and how we spend time has all been affected in advance so with winter coming, we must call on our reserves. Like the Hackberry Tree and its vigorous roots, we have to continue to grow and concentrate on what is next and how to prepare and handle our uncertain futures.


As fall arrives, it’s a good idea to develop new routines, even if you are isolating at home. Stock up on teas and coffees to bring fall into your life. If we can’t visit the pumpkin patch, we have to search for other things. Gone are sweat days that can’t wick off ‘ya, bugs in military attire, humidity (remember it can be good for your skin) as well as the summer Gates of Hell until you arrive at a fall breeze. We are now programmed to live outside as much as possible but that will end with more daytime darkness. On a high note, family feuds may not exist since holiday gatherings will need to be limited (that is certainly not bad news to some of us!). Stock up on crafts and baking, you will have more time to create gifts rather than purchase. What could be more precious than an imperfect handmade present?


Even if it is cold outside, keep a schedule. I set my clock regardless of no plans, even if it means listening to the frightening news on TV. And there is something magical and healing about bundling up and sitting in the sunshine during cold weather. There won’t be endless events to attend this fall and winter, so if you turn to Amazon and Esty become our best friends during the holidays, try to enjoy the experience. Play seasonal tunes while you shop and don’t forget to order a new wreath for your door to usher in the new changing seasons. I ordered some wonderful stationery to write letters (what is that?) to those I care about; and there are endless websites on unusual craft stores to peruse instead of being unsafe and shopping.


You might even take up the hobby of bird watching in your neighborhood hackberry tree. I read on that the fruit of the hackberry is popular with winter birds, especially the cedar waxwing, mockingbird and robin, so take a cue from our steadfast friend and root in for the fall. Last of all, there is the enjoyment of simply being alive.


Photo credit:  Lorna Dancey/Lorna Dancey Photography