116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
September in Iowa is a smorgasbord of sensory images, a menu prepared with the skill and whimsy of a celebrated chef. We never know what the daily special might be; we just know that it will blend the taste of autumn with the summer cuisine we’re not quite ready to surrender.
September’s changes are often subtle; warm sunny days shorten as cool nights lengthen. Flip flops and tank tops defy its occasional nip; air conditioners become an intermittent convenience. Sleeping with open windows means keeping that extra quilt on the edge of the bed, ready to pull up when a chill creeps in. Breath clouds puff out into the cool morning air, and the golden glow of a Harvest Moon lights up the early evening. September also brings the start of another school year, a time for new shoes and clothes, for school supplies, for meeting new teachers and classmates.
Trees preview their autumn reds, yellows, and oranges; rolls of golden hay dot shorn fields in the countryside. Soon playful children will tunnel through piles of raked leaves, and many of us will be reminded of years past when trails of smoke swirled up into the air leaving behind the incense of burning leaves.
Butter-drenched sweet corn and juicy red watermelons are less plentiful, and home-grown squash, pumpkins, and zucchini appear on the family table. Hearty soups are served more frequently, and anything flavored with pumpkin spice can be found on supermarket shelves. Apple orchards open to visitors eager for pies, cobblers, and crisps. Canning supplies are retrieved and like reminders of grandmothers’ cellars, preserved fruits and vegetables will soon be stacked in pantries and shared with friends.
Garage sale treasure hunting nears its end. Sunscreen and grilling give way to fire pits and hot tubs. Seasonal sporting events overlap: one day it’s baseball, hot dogs and cold beer; the next it’s football, chili and hot chocolate. Ice cream trucks disappear; pools are drained and closed. Shops, already laden with Halloween and Thanksgiving goods, make room for Christmas, and TV channels are already previewing holiday movies.
Area farmers’ markets celebrate the season’s harvest. Enticing aromas from food stands mingle, and wines, cheeses, and dips are sampled. Sunflowers, hydrangeas, and gladiolas display their autumn finery, and musicians and performers share their talents with appreciative audiences.
September’s banquet will end with children dreaming of Halloween costumes while parents make appointments for flu shots and winter car tune-ups. Tennis rackets will be hung in the garage and knitting needles and warm winter yarns will appear. Yards will become the gathering grounds for squirrels and other animals stocking up their winter food supplies while birds and monarchs prepare for their migration.
September’s feast will be all too brief, and though it is summer’s last hurrah, it will leave us with the promise of one final pre-winter entrée ready to be served: October.
Sandy Pape lives in Cedar Rapids.