Recalled to Life: Reflections on September

Ah, September, I love you. Especially from the vantage point of the Labour Day weekend. The true last weekend of summer, even though summer still carries on for three more weeks. By the end of August, cooler weather starts to settle in at night, and one feels recalled to life. As if the real world has stalled all summer, and only now kicks back into gear. School starts officially on the Tuesday after Labour Day. And so on this long weekend, one feels such anticipation for what September might bring this year. And slightly overcome with nostalgia too, for everything that September used to bring.

The old house at home, September 2014.

Like new shoes for school. In fact, a whole new first-day-of-school outfit. And crisp blank-paged notebooks. Or scribblers as we called them back in the day. Sharpened pencils. Plain and coloured. A new Barbie pencil case and matching lunch box. The feel and smell of new textbooks and “readers.” The first ecstatic glimpse in the school yard of friends not seen since June. And the Fredericton Exhibition for which we’d saved our pennies all summer. Joy.

View from the old hilltop orchard at home, 1970s

Then when I was a bit older, the year we moved to the farm, all that long Labour Day weekend I lived with the fear that I’d never meet new friends at my new school. That I’d never fit in. Then amazingly I found two kindred spirits just when I thought my life was over. Oh, the drama of being fourteen. Ha. And then there was basketball practice. The camaraderie of being part of a team. Dances in the school gym. My life was not over after all.

At home the barn was filled to the brim with hay. And the kitchen with the smell of mustard pickles cooking. I roamed the hills with my sketchbook. Or picked apples with Mum in the old orchard. One time stepping carefully among the windfalls to avoid the wasps in order to shoo back to the pasture the foraging cattle who’d jumped the fence. Cows among the apples trees in fall were not to be tolerated. Given half a chance they would feast on stolen apples, which would ferment in their stomachs, making them wildly drunk. I didn’t know that drunk cows were a thing until my stepfather told me. It’s really funny until a staggering cow falls and breaks a leg. Then it’s not so funny.

Fall harvest on the trail in New Brunswick

Years later, as an adult, I’d not be able to rest all Labour Day weekend, anticipating the first day of school as a teacher. Recalled to my working life. The crop of new fresh faces in my classes. Blank-paged notebooks all ready for lesson plans. Crisp new textbooks and novels. Greeting colleagues and friends that I’d not seen since June. And that all important first-day-of-school outfit. The more things changed the more they stayed the same. Well, except for the Barbie lunch box. Ha.

Fall harvest on the trail in Ontario

And now that school is done for me, I’m still restless and anxious on Labour Day Weekend. Not with worry or fear. But with the need to get moving. I still feel recalled to life when September starts.

There are blog issues that I put on the back burner over the summer. I need to clean house, digitally. And I need to clean house, our real house. I’ve been lolling around since I returned from New Brunswick. I’ll do a big clean soon when Hubby is away on his fishing trip. And have a clear out. My September chore list is ready.

I plan to unpack some of my fall clothes soon. Particularly the lighter sweaters that I can wear with my tee shirts and tank tops. And under my spring jackets. Once the daytime temperatures are cool enough I always like to give my spring jackets and suits one more trip round the block, styled for fall, instead of spring. And I have shopping plans. Not necessarily to buy. I’m just anxious to browse.

Once the kids are back at school, I plan to spend a day downtown, in the old part of Ottawa. Poking around the small independent boutiques. Seeing what I can see. Just enjoying being out and about on a weekday in the fall, something that I could never do as a teacher. Oh, the joy. And, oddly, even after years of retirement, the slight feelings of guilt. The nagging thought that this luxury is “not allowed.” Ha.

And you know what else? You know what other joy September brings each year? A whole crop of new books. More and more joy. Not textbooks and notebooks waiting to be filled. But books that I’ve been ordering and stockpiling, waiting to be able to enjoy them on the deck with my tea. Most of the summer has been too hot to read on the deck. At least after ten o’clock in the morning. But soon, I’ll pull on my sweatpants and socks instead of shorts and flip flops, and settle in.

Shall we see what’s on deck for deck-reading this fall?

There’s the newest Robert Galbraith, Cormoran Strike mystery, The Ink Black Heart. Hubby and I have both been anticipating this since we finished the fifth book in the series last spring. And a couple of gentle reads: Elizabeth Taylor’s A View of the Harbour, recommended in a Slightly Foxed podcast. And D.E. Stevenson’s Young Mrs. Savage, which I must admit I’ve started already.

I pre-ordered ages ago the new Ann Cleeves “Vera” mystery, The Rising Tide. It’s waiting for me while I finish the D.E. Stevenson. I’ve also pre-ordered Andrew Sean Greer’s Less is Lost, the follow-up to his wonderful Pulitzer Prize-winning novel Less which I enthused about in a post a while ago. And I’ve put my name on the list at the library for Dervla McTiernan’s newest mystery The Murder Rule. The library says the wait is twenty-four weeks… so we’ll see if I can be patient, or if I will capitulate and order it on Kindle. Hubby and I love McTiernan’s Cormac O’Reilly series starting with The Ruin. I’m a sucker for a book set in Ireland, I must say. This latest one is a stand-alone, but I have great hopes for it.

So, for me the last true summer weekend has always been about anticipating fall. Because fall is my best season. The time when I feel recalled to life, to real life. September has always meant new beginnings. New books, new clothes, new schools, new friends.

But, you know, as much as I can look back on Septembers past with nostalgia, I don’t miss the worry and anxiety that usually attended those first weeks of fall term. Septembers are way more wonderful when not accompanied by fears of social failure, homework, and a deluge of marking.

Way better.

How about you, my friends? Are you anticipating being recalled to life with the advent of September. Are you excited about new fall fashion? New books to read? Cool weather?

P.S. The book links in this post are affiliate links. If you make a purchase after clicking my link, I will earn a small commission which helps to pay for the blog.


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43 thoughts on “Recalled to Life: Reflections on September”

  1. I love fall too. Always have. As a kid I loved returning to school after I loved having the summer off. Now I love the change to fall feeling air and the color change in the trees. What’s not to love about buying fall colored mums and getting to wear sweaters again. My 10 year old granddaughter just reminded me of my love of returning to school when she lamented, “when will actual lessons start?” She loves school and was disappointed when the first day was mainly getting organized and getting settled and then on the second day her class had a last minute substitute teacher and no lesson plans. Love her enthusiasm. She has high hopes for next week.

  2. Oh,I’ve always loved the start of the school again,seeing my friends,new books,new notebooks….one of the joys of going to Trieste,Italy ,to buy new clothes and,especially,shoes before the autumn, was buying beautiful new notebooks as well(so it was completely different than spring trips there).
    I’m not ready for fall clothes,my summer holidays are very late this year (but so beautiful ,without many tourist on the beaches or anywhere else) after exhausting temperatures.
    I’m reading new Vera and love it,new Cormoran Strike is next…than we will see….

  3. Well, you have almost pre-empted my next blog post! But I am in much the same frame of mind, with occasional light-bulb moments along the way. Greetings from a cool England where rain is falling gently and it feels today that summer is taking its leave. This year, rather like a slightly traumatic guest who has overstayed their welcome.

  4. Another thoughtful post. And I am excited to learn about Less is Lost, since I enjoyed Greer’s Less so much.

  5. I am ecstatic about this first September in my adult life when I am not returning to school. We are celebrating and I find I have been vigorously and happily cleaning and organizing the house. I am enjoying grocery shopping at midday during the week, and making my lunch just before I eat it and going to the bathroom on my own schedule, not the school bells’! We have a houseguest visiting and then a trip planned for which I will stockpile some great books! Yay for September and cooler weather – especially given the constant hot flashes!!!

    1. It’s a great feeling, isn’t it! Life’s simple pleasures to be taken at your leisure and no time restrictions or demands which have to override them. Enjoy.

    2. Nancy, I am seeing you grocery shopping at 12 pm instead of 12 am. Ha. And making lunch and then sitting right down to eat it was a revelation. Although… I have to be honest… Stu always made my school lunches. 🙂

  6. This time of year has always had me excited to look for beautiful notebooks and fun pens and markers in multiple colours. Even at 67 I still feel a need to purchase these, so I write my lists in various colours and keep a pretty note book in my purse for when a thought needs to be written down, still old school.
    Today is my birthday, so of course that has always meant a new something or other to start the fall with. Yesterday meeting friends for breakfast, I was given a whole stack of books, which is always happening in our group, so I will have bedside reading for a few weeks. We then take them back to see who wants them next so a much larger selection this way, some not everyone’s cup of tea so to speak.
    Still thinking about that Chanel coat, and cannot find any similar, lower priced options. Too much plaid out there, and that is not me.
    Loving this cooler weather today.

  7. Ok, I am officially jealous. You have the latest Ann Cleaves and Robert Galbraith on your tbr pile, I’ve got to get on the stick and order mine. BTW, after your fabulous post on plaids, I was waltzing through Walmart on Grumma’s usual mission for formula and diapers and saw a very cute purple/pink plaid shirt, it now belongs to me. Perfect over a t-shirt and not too precious for baby food and assorted goo. Happy fall to all.

  8. Yes, I am very much looking forward to the re-setting that fall brings. By this time in the summer I am inpatient for fall to get going. Elizabeth Strout has a new novel coming out on September 20 and that will be a treat. I have been reading your blog for about a year (and also your archives) and I really enjoy it. I shared with my eleven-year-old daughter that I was reading some posts by a retired English teacher who often writes about books and fashion, and she was immediately intrigued. She has been tearing through the Anne of Green Gables series for the second time– more ambitious than me because I only ever read the first one! Maybe I’ll reacquaint myself with Anne sometime this season.

    1. I have seen that new Elizabeth Strout. She is a great favourite of mine. I will let some time lapse before I get it. I read Oh, William! not that long ago. So I may wait until I feel in a book slump and then treat myself. I remember how much I adored the Anne books. So much so that some of LMM’s phrases are part of my vocabulary.

  9. Like yours, my lifetime was structured around school terms and schedules (my school years and then 22 years of my kids’ grade school years, overlapped by my return to complete and add degrees, and through all this, teaching piano and music theory according to — yes! — the school schedule). . . and then uni teaching. . . until I retired 7 years ago. I always found my mind and body needed time to adjust to the changing rhythms of an academic term. The ramping-up as the term got started, the craziness of Weeks 5-8, the deceptive lull in 9-13 before classes stopped and marking and exams began. . . And then how many times did I succumb to a cold or ‘flu virus as soon as classes stopped?!). . .
    So I’m quite happy to be able to stretch out the transitions now, soften their edges, if you will. The classes I take now don’t begin for a few weeks and like you, if I want to check out the new Fall offerings in the shops, I can wait until the mad back-to-school rush is over. . . That said, our temperatures dropped about 5C this weekend and from the forecast it looks as if it’s unlikely we’ll see the thermometer rise above 23 again this year. So the ochre loafers I bought in the Spring might come out to play soon. And I can start imagining wearing them with my long grey pleated skirt . . . Oooh, and the patchwork tweed coat I bought winter before last but still feels new to me. . .
    (my Fall reading will include a Dervla McTiernan title as well, my first, after I read about her in G&M where Margaret Cannon is still writing her crime fiction column — no matter what the season, she’s a perennial fixture!

    1. Stu and I have really liked all the Dervla McTiernan books. I love books set in Ireland. I await photographic evidence of those ochre loafers with your pleated skirt. Sounds like a wonderful outfit.

  10. Lucy by the Sea by Elizabeth Strout and Jon Meachem’s And There Was Light: Abraham Lincoln and the American Struggle (Oct release) are on my TBR list. Also, The NYTimes had an interesting article on Elizabeth Strout and her writing this morning’s edition (Sunday, Sept 4th).

    September seems the start of the year to me and I wasn’t even a teacher, but besides my own school years, I also had four children and did a year of virtual schooling with a grandchild. The academic year is etched in my head. Plus, I am not a summer person (I don’t “do” heat). Where I live summers are miserable affairs with few breaks from heat and humidity, so I look forward to cool autumnal days. Later this month, we’re heading out to NM to celebrate my DH’s father’s birthday. November will include a trip to Europe to celebrate DH’s birthday and our significant anniversary…so bring it on! Not sorry to see summer in the rear view mirror.

  11. Our academic year starts at the end of January for schools and a month later for universities, when it’s still hot. Cooler weather doesn’t arrive until well into March so September for me is associated with glorious spring weather and flowers. We’re having a cooler and wetter than usual start to spring this year but that’s okay – there are still freesias and magnolias to admire and the first bluebell has flowered in my garden. However, I’m eagerly anticipating days for lighter clothes and Birkenstocks.

    I do love new stationery in any season, and after a pastel drawing workshop I took yesterday, held at a nearby historic house and garden, I will be acquiring a few new materials to see if I can embed a regular drawing practice. I also learned that oil pastels were invented for Picasso, so he could execute outdoor drawings quickly and easily without having to cart around the paraphernalia for oil painting. I’m certainly no great shakes at drawing but I love the very free technique that pastels encourage and also the way they support the use of colour. We shall see how much commitment I can muster amongst all the spring cleaning that needs to be done.

  12. I LOVE Fall!! It doesn’t cool of here in Arizona until end of November and not cold until December!!! Sometimes later and then I’m very sad!!! I so want to wear cold weather clothing!! I’ve had to make myself stop buying cold weather clothing because I have so much more than I could ever wear during the cold weather season!! I make myself buy more warm weather clothing and I seen to have gotten into the grove somewhat!! Living in cold weather is my love but I have bone desiese that is even more painful in cold weather that I’m reminded of how unbearable every year during the cold weather that I’m longing for so much!!! September was school for so much of my life with college and homeschooling our son!! I remember the new wardrobes of clothing, fresh notebooks ( I still buy some and use them), new make-up and perfume!! New shoes!! All so special!! I’m looking forward to the season!! It’s a fresh start again!!!

    1. I have been eeking out my makeup so I can have a good shop for several different products once fall is here. I love having a new eyeshadow and blush to play with. I can see how really cold weather would not be your friend, Natalie. Maybe just content yourself with fall colours without the weight of fall fabrics?

  13. I’m snuggled up against the last polar blast from the South – hopefully. Spring has made a tentative appearance and freesias, magnolia and daffodils are flapping around in the wind. We’ve had some sunny weather recently and I have managed to get out in the garden to attack some of the weeds but the next few days will be inside days I feel. Time for a visit to the library perhaps.
    The new school year for us is at the height of summer and I rather resented being stuck inside with all the glorious sunshine outside. Everything seemed to be clustered around the end of the year – exams, marking, Xmas shopping, family visits and summer holidays . I almost breathed a sigh of relief going back to school.
    I wore school uniforms all my life and then a de facto uniform of sorts for my forty years of teaching so never had the excitement of new clothes for the start of school. Mind you it did save having to think much when getting dressed in the morning!
    Enjoy your “season of mist and mellow fruitfulness” and I will hope there is a lovely big high pressure system barreling towards us from Australia soon.

  14. Whaaat?! Have you squeezed a bit of nostalgia in this retired a dozen years English teacher? Egad. Each August for 28 years that elephant stepped on my chest a few moments as the famous “first day” mixed bag of emotions surfaced. I looked forward to new faces and fresh starts, vowing to “do it better” this time. And, ah, the wardrobe! Like you, I still love the clothes—the swapping, refreshing, buying, trying. Some days I long to “dress up”. Many days I wish for a classroom of eager eyes. Zero days I miss the volumes of essays, book analyses, journals that pulled me away from family evenings. And, in today’s teaching conditions of pandemic, politics, guns, and ignorance, I pray for my sisters and brothers who navigate the swirling waters.

  15. Ha! As a reader in the Southern Hemisphere and a resident in the sub tropics, my reaction is always ‘Fall? What is that?’
    I have started the latest Robert Galbraith, so far, so good.
    Very excited to see there’s a follow up to ‘Less’, I loved that novel.
    Your book recommendations are always the best.

  16. I’m also a fan of Autumn, I still get that excited ” new pencil case ” feeling at this time of year, even though I don’t look back with nostalgia to actual schooldays.
    After the relentless heat for pretty much all of the summer here ( Greece ) we’ve had rain at last and it’s blissfully cool. Of course there are many things I love about summer: swimming in the sea, sitting outside til late on balmy nights, wearing just a dress…. But I look forward to getting my energy back and to having a list of little projects to tackle. And lots of reading, although that’s a given all year round ! I am going to order a couple of the books you recommended for a start. And just to say, I just finished ” Sorrow and Bliss “, which you enjoyed, Sue, and I agree , a really good read !

  17. Sorry I’m late , we’re away in Scotland just now . I wanted to say my favourite Elizabeth Taylor is Mrs Palfrey at The Claremont but I also enjoyed A View of the Harbour . My latest read was Anne Padgett’s Commonwealth which I loved . It was only after reading it that I discovered it was based on her own life .

    1. I haven’t read any Anne Padgett. But I loved Mrs. Palfrey at the Claremont. It was the first Elizabeth Taylor I read. She’s a bit darker than some of the other “gentle reads” I like, but I love her calm observation of life. Hope Scotland is good!

  18. Just finished The Locked Room, newest (I think) Elly Griffith’s novel in the Ruth Galloway series. This is by far my favorite Ruth – more for the very sensitive capture of the first half of 2020 with the segue from complete ignorance to disbelief to a realization of how covid was going to upset so many applicants and threaten so many lives. I had to wait 6 months for it to come up on my library hold list because there was so much demand, but it was really worth the wait.

    And yes, fall, cooler weather coming I hope. Fewer mosquitos.


  19. I LOVED Less. Thank you for the tip on the sequel. I’ll pre-order today!
    September was always my favorite time of year. Returning to school was a renewal, in all the best and most hopeful ways. New clothes (mostly those I’d sewn myself), time with friends, new classmates, opportunities to learn, hours away from watchful parents and snarking siblings, and maybe a potential boyfriend into the bargain? Everything felt possible.

  20. You have some great photos in this post. The grape leaves, apple tree, old clock. Wonderful.
    I love summer and I’m always a bit sad when it is over. That said, fall is a great season. I’m so full of energy in the fall. Like you, I have so many memories of the return to school as a child. New notebooks and clothes, new classes, seeing school friends. It helps to balance the sadness of summer leaving, to know how good fall can be.
    One of the things that I am excited about is that I’m doing some fall planting. I look forward to getting new shrubs in the ground and imagining how they will look in the spring. Fall is a time for gardening and I always love that.
    I have a virtual stack of books ahead. I’ve just started listening to The Marlow Murder Club by Nicolette McKenzie. I’ve been hoarding Galbraith’s last book on audio. Now that he has a new one out, I’ll listen to book number 5 and know that there is still another one in reserve.
    I’ve just cracked the spine of Emily Henry’s Book Lovers. If I like it as much as I enjoyed Beach Read, I have a treat in store. She is a clever writer.
    I’ve put Marcus Samuelsson’s Yes, Chef on the pile. I look forward to another chef’s memoir. The food/cooking world captivates me.
    My son gave me Ocean Vuong’s book of poetry Time Is A Mother and I look forward to slowly making my way through his poems.
    I have a few new cookbooks to peruse as well.
    On fall fashion – You still have me thinking about tweed and plaid. They are fall favorites. I may not do anything about it, but I might look a bit.
    Cargo pants look comfortable and could be fun with a blazer.
    I purchased a couple of denim shirts in the spring and I’m looking forward to wearing them this fall.
    A new notebook for scribbling in could be a welcome purchase this fall.

  21. September is the worst month here in Southern California! The heat, especially this year, has been horrendous this September. But I have such fond memories of the first day of school, and with a graduate degree and three children I’ve had a lot of them. I remember laying out my new shoes and clothes the night before, such excitement! And new teachers, would I like her and would he like me. How I loved school. And now I look forward to wearing fall clothes and sweaters and fall trips to the wine country, mountains and sometimes Europe.

  22. And thank you and your readers for the book recommendations. I’ve just ordered them from the library.

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