September 14, 2023

The “Slant of Light” of September
Why September just might be my favorite month

By: Martin Hackworth

September, at least in my view, is a grand month. It’s always been my favorite month of the year. Summer activities still abound, but the weather is generally stable and reasonably good. In some years, September brings a long, lovely Indian summer that may last for several weeks. The fall equinox arrives just after mid-month in September. About the only thing wrong with September is that it only has 30 days.

I wouldn’t mind if it had 50.

Major league baseball is in the final month of the regular season in September. Pennant races are in full swing, and team rosters are expanded to 28 players. Even if your team is out of the thick of a playoff run, you still get to watch young players from your farm system play major league ball. This year, my Cincinnati Reds are vying for a wild-card spot in the playoffs, having used nearly 40 rookies, an amazing number, in their bid for their first postseason in a few years. Several of these players are legitimate candidates for NL rookie of the year. It’s been a lot of fun to watch all season, and a wild-card spot would be the icing on the cake.

Football, both collegiate and professional, also starts in earnest in September. This year, the Kentucky Wildcats are already 2-0, and the Detroit Lions are going to have to build another bandwagon because the one they already put together is full. How can you not love what Dan Campbell (also known as Motor City Dan Campbell, or “MCDC” for short) has done with a previously moribund NFL franchise over the past few seasons with a very young team helmed by a previously down-on-his-luck QB, Jared Goff, that the Los Angeles Rams had to practically bribe the Lions to take off their hands in a trade?

MCDC is the man. I’m pretty sure that his players would run through a wall for him if they had to. Every Lions game is a full-on display of the type of maximum effort you only see when a locker room is tight. I don’t know how far the Lions can go this year, but it’s sure going to be fun to watch.

September is a gentle reminder that the halcyon days of summer don’t last forever. There’s a nip that begins to appear in the morning air during September that portends the arrival of Fall. Here in Idaho, the leaves are already beginning to change on the deciduous trees that form groves high on the mountains that surround my home. Winter constellations are beginning to appear in the nighttime sky. Our goats and llamas are beginning to develop nascent shaggy coats for the cooler weather to come. Even though the echoes of summer are still strong, the signs of winter to come are unmistakable.

Decades ago, back in my climbing days, September was always a month spent traveling across the country for various climbing adventures. I spent many September days and nights listening to baseball games on AM radio while crisscrossing the country from one destination to the next.

The weather in the high mountains can be very dicey in September, when winter can arrive unexpectedly and in a heartbeat. But the reward for taking the chance were climbing areas nearly empty of tourists and other climbers. I used to love climbing in September. You’d need a sweater for a bivouac, but climbing areas sans other climbers made it all worthwhile. I once spent five days in September on a route on El Capitan in Yosemite and didn’t see another climber anywhere until our last day—something that even back then met every requirement for a miracle.

September is also a great month—perhaps the best—for bicycling, mountain biking, and single-track dirt bike riding. The weather is cool enough to make riding enjoyable, and wind and rain are generally not a factor most of the month. The trails are as sawed clear as they are going to get, and the creeks are also running low. The days are discernibly shorter, but the fewer daylight hours are more than made up for by incredibly pleasant riding conditions.

This year has been personally challenging. I thought that I knew what the arc of my final years would look like until it all unexpectedly changed with the arrival of the summer solstice. The dog days of summer were particularly trying, but salvation arrived in the form of September. “There’s a certain slant of light” in September that I have always found quite agreeable, and never more so than this year. When the equinox arrives in a few days, I’ll put one miserable season behind me and not look back.

I’m still not sure that I know exactly what the future is going to look like, but I’m now quite certain that I’ll be able to handle whatever it is. Thank you, September.

Associated Press and Idaho Press Club-winning columnist Martin Hackworth of Pocatello is a physicist, writer, and retired Idaho State University faculty member who now spends his time with family, riding bicycles and motorcycles, and arranging and playing music. Follow him on Twitter @MartinHackworth.

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