Northwest Washington is known for its mild, wet weather, with rains that reliably fill up water tables, rivers, lakes and aquifers from fall through spring. But this time of year it is gloriously golden light. In the garden, the heat of August has ripened the tomatoes, sent all the lettuce to seed, and almost ripened the peppers, but September mornings and evenings are cool and sometimes misty. Cool enough for a run, into the rising sun, which flashes between trees and blinds you. You can see little, and so you listen. A flock of starlings gabble and chirp in multilinguistic eagerness, chickadees and towhees report their early morning whereabouts to one another, a crow sends warning about a roving cat. In the shelter of the trail you stop at the stream, lean over the rail of the little bridge, watch until two fish dart upstream.
Back in the garden a few slugs ooze into their secret crevices as the dew dries. Pumpkin and squash leaves along sprawling vines hold themselves aloft, drawing in the oblique light as their fruits swell a final few sizes beneath their concealing canopy. A certain slant of light lends a richness to everything orange and red, vividly contrasting with blues and greens, defining shadows. Dragonflies dive back and forth across the yard after prey, honey bees caress pollen and sip nectar out of the purple borage flowers, and orb weaving spiders, some of them almost an inch long in body, hang silently at the center of perfect webs. You draw near one to admire the patterned body, and she suddenly tenses her front legs.
With the deep rain of earlier in the week, the aroma of soil and fermenting plant trimmings has returned. You pull fireweed that has already gone to seed, hawkweed and plantain, ease webs of roving buttercup from their grip along the surfaces of the garden paths, toss all in a pile. The soil is brown and loose. The raspberry canes are tired, leaves browning, but each one has a succession of ripening berries to gather for the week’s daily breakfast granola. You gingerly tie the arched blackberry canes to their wires; a stray end rasps the skin of your ankle.
Shadows have already begun to overcome the yard, leaving a few hours for a walk and visit to the bookstore cafe. You tie a jacket around your hips as the skylight fades behind the cottonwoods and Douglass firs. The sun no longer warms your skin, but you make warmth walking, and downtown the sidewalks and buildings release their collected heat. Tiny strings of lights adorn shop windows; a man is holding a box of donuts and eating ice cream with his companions on the corner. You enter the bookshop and go upstairs, spotting the volume you want before you reach the top step. Staff Pick, and you have a birthday discount. The clerk has read the author, and voices her approval. Walking home as the full moon rises, you feel it through your backpack, reflecting heat.
As soon as you can you direct your steps away from the lighted streets, into the embrace of the dark. You walk through zones of scent–wild blackberries, gas barbecue, dog urine, fresh evergreen cuttings, cement wet from a sprinkler, the sea.