This week, it has felt much more like July than September. The humidity has come back and let is know it is not quite done with us yet. Even on windy days, it has been hot, heavy air. Gary and Vickie returned from their vacation to Alaska, regaling us with stories of mild temperatures and glaciers. Vickie talked about that feeling you get, when you step onto the tarmac, getting out of that airplane for the first time, and that humid, Tennessee air hits you in the face. Your lungs struggle for a moment, akin to a mule that had Sunday off and then has the yoke strapped back on. They’ll remember how to handle it, but man being away from that was nice. On days like these, I hear stories of glaciers, I imagine myself, climbing one in my running shorts and a T-shirt and lay down on 1,500 feet of sheer ice. It sounds like heaven today.
We’ve had a few evenings of rough weather, where wind and rain rolls just after dark. It seems to be nature’s way of pruning the trees. The next day, walking down the path, you find clumps of leave and twig like the seaweed that washes up on the beach when the tides go out. Normally, when strong weather like this passes through, I expect a temperature change, but the temperature has stayed pretty steady despite whatever weather system comes in. When temperatures like this persist, we say, “I thought it was September.” What’s funny is we say this pretty much every year, as if it is out of the ordinary for September to still be warm.
The water grass on the river has not retreated, in fact, it has stretched out and covered even more. During the summer, we had cut paths through this meadow of milfoil with our boats, going in and out each day. There were a few more paths carved out by the campers and staff brave enough to swim in the water. But, with summer gone, the grass has closed in. I’ve had the urge to take a canoe out at sunset, but I don’t dare right now. Canoeing through this stuff is like trying to canoe across a sandy beach. If you stand at the observation deck at Pilot Knob, looking out over the river, you might think that it all was dry land. What has actually happened is that algae has developed on top of the grass, giving a bright green color. From far away, it looks like you could walk on it. And, if you could, you could walk from Lakeshore to the New Johnsonville Bridge.
Jim talked about how he occasionally comes in early to do a little fishing down at the water. He had a funny story about a small mouth bass that took his bait, then came out of the water, and spit it back out. The lure bounced right off Jim’s forehead. But, here lately, Jim is having trouble getting even the fish with attitudes. The water is, no doubt, full of fish. If you walk by the river, it’s just bubbling with activity from minnows, frogs, fish, and probably a bunch of other stuff. But, if you toss a line out there, your hook is going to grab grass and get stuck. Jim said he gets nibbles, and he’s amazed that the fish even find his bait as thick as it is out there.
That area is not supposed to be covered in water. Before the river was dammed and flooded in the 40s, it was low lying land. I’m told a creek flowed between the place where Lakeshore is now and the river. I wonder what it would be like if the dam broke and all the water there suddenly was gone. It would be interesting to walk across those spaces I’ve only traversed in a boat. To see the creek that is currently the secondary channel. Then making my way to the main channel of the Tennessee River. What were these places like before we were here? There was a point when a pretty prominent Native American settlement was in some of the spots covered by the river. I’ve been told, places like this were perfect to the tribes who inhabited this part of the continent. Lots of things have moved in and out of this place over the years.
I went down to the waterfront today, to take some pictures for this article, so people could see the extent of the plant life in water. I saw a beautiful white bird, that I think is an egret. There was a great grey heron farther down. Smaller birds were all around. The heat was uncomfortable, with me having just left the air-conditioned office, but life was teeming still. The plants in the water continue to stretch out their arms, the fish find new shelter in their branches, and the birds get food like they haven’t yet seen if they are willing to pick between the branches. I could sit on the dock and watch all this happen for hours, even as I sweated through my clothes.
In thinking about this month and what it should and should not feel like, I got the song September by Earth, Wind, and Fire stuck in my head. You know this song, even if you don’t think you do. And, if you don’t know it, you need to go out at this very moment and listen to it. You are guaranteed to feel at least 10% better (especially if you pull up the youtube video. Man, videos were crazy in the 70s). The song starts out:
Do you remember the
21st night of September?
Love was changing the minds of pretenders
While chasing the clouds away
Our hearts were ringing
In the key that our souls were singing.
As we danced in the night,
Remember how the stars stole the night away
Then it launches into the chorus, half of which is unintelligible, but all of which makes you want to get up and dance. I think about this seemingly miserable weather, and think about what it’s like to remember. When I look back on the summers, I rarely think about how much I disliked the heat, in the same way I don’t think about disliking the cold in winter. I think more of growing close to the people I love. Seeing the beautiful sites all around us. The feeling you have being alive and out in this big, huge world. Sweating and shivering are rarely memorable. What I do remember is love changing the mind of pretenders. Enough even to chase the clouds away. As we look back at these days of September, I hope we’ll have made memories enough to transcend the temperatures, so we can notice how the stars steal the night away.