September has long been my favorite month, and not just because I get to celebrate my birthday. But because it feels like the climax of the year, as if every seed and limb and leaf has been working together for just this moment to release its fruit before ceding to fall.

Out my writing shed window, the marigolds and sunflowers glow gold in my garden among rows of bright-faced zinnias and still-flowering vines. The deer have nibbled every single leaf off of the string beans, which hang over the wire fence, while the tomatoes are ripening faster than I can eat them.

All the earth, it seems, pours forth its utmost energy into summer’s grand finale. And yet, the apple tree – close enough that I could pick its fruit if I but slid up the window – reminds me not to take this bounty for granted.

Pushed horizontal by wind and gnawed by mice, the tree seemed unlikely to survive. All through the spring and summer, I watched in disbelief as the branches leafed and blossomed to bear fruit from which I recently baked a cobbler. Yet this harvest may be its last.

For although the tree is young, its leaves have withered even as the apples ripened. Brown and brittle and flecked with spots, they fall so fast some branches are now bare.

As a teen, full of longing to discover the world and my place in it, I often lay on the summer grass, a book of poetry open in my hands.

Reading Keats, I found his words reflected my worries:

“When I have fears that I may cease to be

Before my pen has glean’d my teeming brain,

Before high-piled books, in charactery,

Hold like full garners the full-ripened grain…”

Like Keats, I worried that this life full of wonder and possibility would fade too fast.

It has, I’ve found.

For years, our house was bursting with so many children that we had to hold our breath to squeeze between their beds. Through that long season, I wrote early in the morning, during naps and late at night – often with a sleeping baby strapped to my chest. In this new season as the children leave home, for the first time, we have not only an empty bed, but an empty bedroom. The silence sometimes weighs so heavy on my heart that I stand on my porch and talk to the chickens.

Like Keats’s, my brain, is still teaming. But who knows how long each of us has?

Keats died at 25, just over half my age. Yet, in scripture, the Psalmist writes that the one who does what is right will flourish like a tree and that “Even in old age they will still produce fruit; they will remain vital and green” (Psalm 92:12-14, NLT).

This is my prayer, that as life’s seasons pass, I will be like my garden and pour my utmost energy into life’s grand finale. Every seed and limb and leaf, working together to release its fruit so that others may enjoy its flavor.

Meadow Rue Merrill, author of the memoir “Redeeming Ruth,” writes from a little house in the big woods of Midcoast Maine. She is also the author of the “Lantern Hill Farm” children’s picture book series. Find her and two dozen other children’s writers and illustrators this Saturday, Sept. 18, at the Bath Book Bash, from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. in Bath’s Library Park. For more information, visit bathbookbash.org

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