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What is it about September?

"Life is difficult." That's the first line of Dr. Scott Peck's iconic book, The Road Less Traveled. From that point on, the reader was hooked, and it was almost impossible to put the book down. But this experience happened again.

John L. Parker Jr. wrote the classic sports book, Once a Runner. According to Runner’s World, this was “the best novel ever written about running.” But it also is about life especially a part of the first sentence: “September, the month of promises.”

Depending upon where we live on this planet, for many of us, there is something special about September. The lazy, hazy days of summer are over (okay, this particularly hot summer seems to be hanging on). And depending upon how far north you live in the Northern Hemisphere, you may be closing up the cabin in the woods, hauling the boat out of the lake, and moving the dock to the shore.

And thus begins the frantic search for the hats, the gloves, the mittens.

It is a time of preparation—and anticipation. Yes, it is a time of promise. In general, the kids are back in school, the Labor Day holiday sales are over, football is once again king—the glue that binds us together, especially in small towns. Every team at the start of the season is a champion in September.

Autumn is a time of tremendous transition. The recent high school graduate has a nervous excitement as many leave the nest and strike out for post–high school opportunities: the armed services, the college dorm, a gap year, the trade school. Many of us are ill prepared for that anguish as that high school “kid” leaves the nest or who is pushed out of the nest for their next challenge. Some are ready for the test; some are not, but time will tell.

It is a time to get serious. Here in the upper Midwest, winter is on its way and the alert and the prepared now get the car serviced, tires and fluids checked, and find the ice scrapers buried in the back of the SUV. We stack the firewood, tune up the furnace. This is a time to anticipate, a time to plan.

The mornings are crisp, clear, and silent—and dark on my early-morning runs. It is now dark right after dinner, and soon even at 4:30 in the evening we turn on the headlights and settle in for the evening. Much like the runner at the start of a race, the athlete at the start of a contest, there is a palpable, visceral anxiety and uneasiness that the contest will soon start. The local grocery store has pumpkins displayed with the fall-colored mums, and Starbucks brings back pumpkin spice.

September is the month to pause, to reflect, to bring out the calendars and make certain that everyone is on the same page. Schedules are riveted onto refrigerator doors for kids’ practices and games, after-school activities, clubs, band practice, ballet and soccer. Digital calendars are trendy but there is something satisfying about opening a calendar and looking at the next month with anticipation for some, with dread for others.

For that one moment in time, as Whitney Houston said in her iconic song, we are in charge and do know deep in our souls that everything can change in a phone call or with an email.

Willie Nelson sings about the long while from May to December. He reminds us the days grow short when we reach September, whether that was just to rhyme with his lyrics or truth, I say he is right on.

When the birds fly south, the leaves begin to turn and drop, we should be ready for what is ahead. Be aware, be alert, anticipate.

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