Guest post by Julie Burner Gochenour, published originally in the August/September 1998 issue of Shenandoah Seasons: A Country Kitchen Journal (out of print). 

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There’s goldenrod on my morning walks now, along with the Queen Anne’s lace and sky blue chicory that’s peppered the road banks all summer, and tell-tale clumps here and there, while still green, promise more to come. A yellow school bus, the first I’ve seen since June, rolls down the road and later, on my way to the clothesline, I glimpse gold again. Looking up, temporarily distracted from the clean damp sheets heaped high in the laundry, I track the slow downward spiral of a single gold leaf originating somewhere high in the gnarled black walnut tree above. There are lots of green walnuts, I note, plenty to be raked up later this fall unless the squirrels work overtime.

Here in the Shenandoah Valley, whether we’re ready or not, late summer and early fall are when the year seems to grow up before our very eyes. One week the world is green and growing, the next – surely just a few short days later – the fields and fencerows have become tinged and splattered with random bits of gold. Nights are slightly cooler and just a bit longer, and crickets join the sound of cicadas and the short whirring flights of grasshoppers. It’s still summer, of course, but summer with a difference. There’s a new purposefulness and air of maturity about the year that cannot be dismissed. Without warning, the rhythm of the growing season shifts – as if the world has somehow turned a corner and is bearing down toward seedtime and harvest.

For some reason, this green to gold passage of time always catches me off guard, never fails to take me by surprise. The corn on the cob we have for supper, the dish of sliced tomatoes and cucumbers, ordinary fare for months now and unthinkingly forked onto our plates with the reckless abandon born of plenty, suddenly seem precious again.

Like every human being, I resist the loss in this, mourn summer’s passage and, as with all good things, would keep it longer, am reluctant to let it go. Yet, embedded in my regret is also a sense of acceptance…and even anticipation. Looking backwards, I can cherish the gifts that this summer has brought, the growth and bounty it’s given me, and give thanks that I still have a few radiant remaining weeks in which to receive the same. Looking ahead…well, looking ahead, I see gold.

I asked (and received) Julie's permission to occasionally use some of her seasonal reflections, because they demonstrate a connection with Nature that I want to encourage others to cultivate too. When you begin to notice and recognize the natural things around you — learning their names, their features, and their life cycles — they become as dear to you as friends, and your life will be richer for it. 

What's growing on your daily walk to work…to the mailbox…to meet the children's school bus? If you see something lovely and don't know its name, take a snapshot and ask your friends. Let us know what you discover in the comments below or join the conversation at Elizabeth's Facebook Page. 


Julie Burner Gochenour is an award-winning, published writer and journalist living in the Shenandoah Valley. She is currently an Instructor in the School of Communications Studies at James Madison University. She holds an M.A. R. degree in Religion/Written Communication from Eastern Mennonite University and  a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies from Union Institute and University.


Photo credit: “Goldenrod Plant” by Dr. Elena Elisseeva, Toronto, ON, Canada via iStockPhoto
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