Light In August


Sycamores are the first to surrender their leaves to the subtle changes in daylight.

“Some days in late August are like this, the air thin and eager like this,

with something in it sad and nostalgic and familiar . . .”

— William Faulkner, The Sound and the Fury

Faulkner almost had it right.

While August is the saddest month in the calendar, it’s also, I think, the most perplexing.

It seems as if August just doesn’t know which season it wants to be part of: summer or autumn.  The weather is still warm and humid, but each day grows shorter, second by second.  Leaves that were once fresh and green are now dull and drab.

Added into my August angst equation is my non-blogging life.  I work in a school, and in a little more than a week, classes will resume.  It’s as if August is the gate for my flight into September, and I’m too afraid to leave the area for fear that I might miss the boarding call.

And so I find myself plotting the demise of August while squeezing — choking — all I can out of the last bits of summer.  Surely, August must have some redeeming quality.

That’s what I was hoping to discover on a recent August evening when friends Laura and Paul invited Joe and me to dinner at their home overlooking Long Island Sound.  From their deck, under the gaze of one of Paul’s works of art, we had an aerial view of Laura’s vegetable garden.

One of the largest pieces of Paul's art is mounted to the outside wall of the brick fireplace.  It has a commanding view of Laura's garden and the Long Island Sound.

One of the largest pieces of Paul’s art is mounted to the outside wall of the brick fireplace.
It has a commanding view of Laura’s garden and the Long Island Sound.

A view of Laura's vegetable garden as seen from the deck.

A view of Laura’s vegetable garden as seen from the deck.

From garden to table.

From garden to table.

Because the house and garden sit on bluff, Laura and Paul incorporated nautical whimsy into it.  Colorful buoys, many painted by Laura, decorate the walls and the ceiling under the deck.


Laura hand-paints buoys, themed for each month.

Laura hand paints buoys, themed for each month.

At one point in the evening, before the late summer light faded, Laura and Paul wanted to show us their secret garden.  We followed the sign to an opening in the hedge and then down a steep set of hand-crafted stairs to the water’s edge.

A painted rock points the way.

A painted rock points the way.

And that’s where August redeemed itself.  There and then, on a bluff at sunset, the angle of the late summer sun’s rays played with the atmosphere, bathing the waterside garden and our skin in hues of gold.



A sunset sail on Long Island Sound.

A sunset sail on Long Island Sound.



Laura and Paul discovered a natural spring, which they channeled into a small pool.

Laura and Paul discovered a natural spring, which they channeled into a small pool.

An old dinghy, now a planter, feels at home in this shore-hugging garden.

An old dinghy, now a planter, feels at home in this shore-hugging garden.



There is no other light like the light in August.  It’s comfortable and warm, like a favorite blanket.  It stretches and lingers, like a cat on a sunny window sill.  And it’s nostalgic and gold, like an aged photograph or a happy memory.

August — with all of its sadness and perplexity — gets to stay in my calendar.



Giveaway Winner

Many thanks for everyone who commented in the Presidents’ Gardens giveaway.  I enjoy reading your comments and learning a little bit more about you.  After a spin through, the winner is: Mary C.  Congratulations, Mary, and I’ll be in touch.

Look for another giveaway in an upcoming post.

28 thoughts on “Light In August

  1. Lovely thoughts and prose. I totally agree. Noticed the tip toe of light changing two weeks ago…like sock covered feet down a long hallway…I must admit I enjoy cooler, less humid days. Thanks for such a nice post. Diane

  2. I know how you feel about August. Here in Iowa, the evenings are so ‘soft’. It can be unbareably muggy but the breezes make for perfect time to sit on a swing and enjoy the evening. Thanks for reminding me how much I love this transition time.

    • Hi Carol. Year after year, I fight August. The month really gets to me — but this year I had to concede. There is no light like the light in August. Be well — and enjoy what’s left of the eighth month.

  3. What a beautiful post. I must admit that I am a bit obsessed with looking at other people’s gardens. I love all the artwork incorporated into this one.

    • Hey Mario! There is artwork and whimsical touches throughout — and I agree, I love to look at other people’s gardens. I’m on the next plane to check out your garden! 🙂

  4. Fabulous vegetable gardens — love the different shapes and styles of beds. August here today has decided to be a blast of summer, some of the hottest of the season. Next thing we know, we’ll have a frost warning bearing down on us!

  5. Their landscape looks to be crafted full of fun and wonder! Your words remind me of August in Oregon. August in Texas is when everyone buckles down and reminds themselves the heat will pass eventually, even if perhaps not until Christmas.

    • I was in a local neighborhood where the streets are lined with sycamores — and it looked like all-out autumn. I also liked the view of the garden from the deck. It made me want to climb on my roof and get an aerial view of my own garden. 🙂

  6. I like the unconventional vegetable garden. They did it with creative flare. August always feels like Summer here. Some leaves are dropping, but it is hard to tell if it is not just that the trees are dry. No rain here unfortunately. Love the boating shots. Looks so peaceful.

    • Hi Donna. I’m glad you enjoyed a stroll through my friends’ garden. I know what you mean, though, about the trees: seasonal change or dryness. It might be a little bit of both, but I have seen some maple leaves changing color. Too soon. Too fast.

  7. Ah, the seasons. I’ve lived so long in an area with very subtle changes in the seasons. I can see the changes in the light quality during this time of year. I do wonder if the insects and birds and other creatures can feel the difference. Are they preparing for the short cold days of winter? I am longing for cooler temps and lower humidity. I do enjoy returning to temperate gardening through your blog. I hope to return to the north and my old friends, perennials and annuals I’ve been missing. Thank you for your wonderful way of reminding me what gardening and gardens are made of in the temperate zones!

    • Hi Mary. I’m not sure if squirrels can notice the difference, but they are quite active lately. Maybe it’s because the oaks are dropping acorns. And if you’d like a refresher on temperate gardening, come on up. I’ll swap places with you. 🙂

  8. I have so many of the same feelings about August, Kevin. I work in a university, and as the students begin trickling back in, I’ve been less and less able to spend any time blogging. My daughter even asked me if I’d given it up! LOL! But I, too, have tried to remain active and in my summer head despite the added strains of the fall schedule. I came home the other evening and snapped a few photos of the sun bathing the San Gabriel Mountains in the most beautiful hue. The sun shines at a particular afternoon slant that is only for August. And it’s hot as heck, but gorgeous. My poor garden needs cooler weather and time to rest, and perhaps so do I, but I’m just not quite ready. I just loved the photos of your friend’s garden…what a haven!

  9. I am with you about August although my August was consumed by a project. I also work in a school district but I work year round. I would like to get August back so I had some summer…but I will have to take some Fridays off to enjoy fall in my garden.

  10. Pingback: August: Broward County | Nitty Gritty Dirt Man

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