Try to remember the kind of September when life was slow and oh, so mellow... ~Tom Jones

In the old Victoria magazine, one of my most cherished departments (among a crowd of loved ones) was Favorite Things. I always saved Chimes for last, and I religiously denied myself so much as a peek at the main body of the magazine—with its ravishing spreads of Old Masters-esque photographs and seasonal quotations from the likes of Bronte and Keats flourishing across the pages in sinuous script—until the proper details of the setting were in order: tea, a favorite chair by the window and a little bite of something lovely. (If it sounds like I used to have a party for my new Victoria, then I can only say that it deserved it.) But Favorite Things was always fair game. I could lose myself in it on the way back up the driveway from the mailbox and stand propped against the kitchen counter while my family bustled their commotion around me in an oblivion of utter impunity. Favorite Things was always my gateway to the rest of the magazine, even more so than Nancy Lindemeyer’s lovely letters, which I usually read next. It set the stage, so to speak, and called forth a host of memories and ideas suitable to the season that approached. There was a magic in that column that threw a rainbow tint over the month in question, intentionally highlighting its unique little pleasures and joys, comforts to be indulged in, and the subtle shades of distinction that make a kaleidoscopic variety of a year.

(I am well aware that the new Victoria carries the same feature. But it is not the same. It’s lost the magic. For me, at least.)

It is in memory of this, and perhaps in token of the fact that the start of each new month is always a ‘beginning the world’ for me—and never more so than September!—that I have decided to commence a Favorite Things feature here at Lanier’s Books. There are so many miracles to celebrate as our year revolves: small wonders to mark and keep; mementoes to pocket in tribute to a month’s unique identity. Bits of lovely that happen to make my heart happy at a given time.

It’s all so blessedly new when we turn the page of a calendar. And even more blessedly familiar. I’d like to welcome the changes while honoring the unchanging rhythm that undergirds and makes of all our brave adventuring into a month, at heart, a homecoming.

I had the inestimable pleasure of hosting this lovely little lady for the past year as a memento of a dear friend across the sea. Her name is Mariette and her manners are just as decorous as one might expect. While I was more than happy to return her to her family upon their return from abroad, her place has felt empty, and I have been half-heartedly looking out for a replacement.

Imagine my joy, then, when I spied this dainty creature in an antique shop. She appealed to me so endearingly with that modest expression of hers that I bought her on the spot and brought her home. Her name is Babette. I just love the way that a new spot of pretty can make a whole room feel fresh.

Departing summer hath assumed
An aspect tenderly illumed,
The gentlest look of spring;
That calls from yonder leafy shade
Unfaded, yet prepared to fade,
A timely carolling.

William Wordsworth, September

Amid the longed-for September rains and the sweet decay of leaf mold, the mushrooms always start popping up like magic overnight. I love all the little colonies and clusters along the drive, some so elegant with their slender, white stalks and velvet caps, and others squat and brown and droll to the point of being ridiculous. They are all friends.

Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
And only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries.

E. B. Browning—Aurora Leigh

I believe that for the rest of my life, September will always make me think of Maine, and one sunset in particular that seemed to sum up the full beauty and sacredness of a week of much-needed solitude with my beloved. We hid ourselves in a clapboard cabin on a remote, spruce-fringed bay, and watched the land turn mellow around us every day. And every night there was a display of fire and gold in the sky and its reflected vanguard on the sea that took my breath with the love of God. This one was at the Bass Head Light.

The breezes taste
Of apple peel.
The air is full
Of smells to feel-
Ripe fruit, old footballs,
Burning brush,
New books, erasers,
Chalk, and such.
The bee, his hive,
Well-honeyed hum,
And Mother cuts
Chrysanthemums.
Like plates washed clean
With suds, the days
Are polished with
A morning haze.

John Updike, September

Was I the only one that gained serious wardrobe inspiration from the "Land Girls" feature in Victoria magazine, September 1998? I still go back to that one each fall just to stir up ideas for a favored look of mine. I call it "English-farmgirl-chic" and it's all tweeds and head scarves and sensible shoes and sweaters. The Land Girls were simply gorgeous to me, and Victoria honored them well, in my opinion. But it wasn't all about being absolutely stunning in overalls and Wellies. They were an amazing army of women that held the lines on the homefront during WWII and literally kept England from starving while most of the men were overseas. I spoke with a lady in her eighties once who had run away from her home (and her chores) as a girl to join the Land Army. After a few weeks of grueling labor in the fields, she ran away from the Land Army back to her mother's kitchen in Manchester!

How shimmer the low flats and pastures bare,
As with her nectar Hebe Autumn fills
The bowl between me and those distant hills,
And smiles and shakes abroad her misty, tremulous hair!

Lowell, An Indian Summer Reverie

September is my favorite time of year to camp. Nights just chilly enough for a campfire and days long and languid enough to feel like summer and something sweeter. I always forget how many stars there really are until we take our Silver Turtle out under a September sky and remember what a staggering miracle of wonder it is just to be alive. I can never quite fully recapture that sensation under a proper roof.

Lord, it is time. The summer was very big. Lay thy shadow on the sundials, and on the meadows let the winds go loose. Command the last fruits that they shall be full; give them another two more southerly days, press them on to fulfillment and drive the last sweetness into the heavenly wine.

Rainer Maria Rilke

Blessed September, my friends!