‘It is a humiliating experience to be caught without a mask in public’

It is still August, but the season is turning. As I mentioned here weeks ago, once August hits, the rest of the summer goes fast, like ketchup out of a bottle at a barbecue.

The slant of the light is different in August. It is dark in the morning when I wake up, cool as I dress for work. Driving along state Route 73, I see a few bright orange leaves high in the treetops: a warning.

This is the time of year, on the other hand, when annual flowers truly come into their own. The zinnias in my garden — Benary’s Giant mix — are partying down with delirious abandon. Cosmos and marigolds are in their glory.

Surrounding the zinnias, and trying to claim as much space as possible everywhere else, the pale pink fall obedient flower spikes are beginning to bloom. These so-called obedient flowers are pretty, but prone to be pushy. As a fellow gardener remarked to me, “They want to be my only flower.” They arrived in town all at once a few years ago, immediately making themselves right at home in fields and gardens around Keene. How did they manage to do this?

I have read that obedient plants, perennials also known as physostegia virginiana, false dragonhead and Virginia lions-heart, spread mainly by runner — and yes, I can testify that they are adept at this form of reproduction — but something else must be responsible for their sudden appearance in widely distributed garden plots throughout the hamlet.

Physostegia seeds, which I have heard described as “little nutlets,” are not the lightweight, dust-like kind commonly carried by the wind. Maybe one September day a powerful wind storm from up north happened to strike a big stand of physostegia virginiana just as it went to seed, shaking loose thousands of little nutlets and bearing a raft of them aloft, then dropping seed randomly over a space of several miles. I can’t think of another way to explain their mysterious emergence.

Despite the COVID-19 pandemic, Adirondack tourism has not declined this season. In fact, it is more robust than ever. While some of us may have wished for more rain, the long sunny days have been great for outdoor activities, and the landscape has certainly been picture-postcard beautiful. Hikers abound on the trails and it has been a great summer for swimming.

On the whole, from what I have seen, everyone, whether resident or visitor, has been good about mask-wearing and hand-sanitizing in Keene and Keene Valley. No one really seems to like wearing a mask, but most people do so in public with good-natured forbearance. The chief complaint I have heard is that other people wear their masks below their noses.

We all are getting used to wearing face masks, but it isn’t exactly second nature. How many times have I gotten right up to the entrance of a store or the post office and then had to run back to my car for a mask? I am not the only one. It is a humiliating experience to be caught without a mask in public. It’s like those dreams where you find yourself in a crowd wearing a nightgown, or worse, nothing at all, and you think, that’s funny, I’m sure I was wearing clothes when I left the house.

From what I hear, news of the recent COVID-19 outbreak in the Essex Center nursing home in Elizabethtown and the danger of concomitant COVID spread in the community is the source of greatest worry locally.

Of lesser concern is the annual mouse-coming-inside problem, which seems earlier than usual this year.

Conversation overheard: Shopper — Oh look, Mary, they sell balsam fir sachets here! This is what I need for that room in my guest house.

Mary — That room is going to take a lot more than a sachet.

One can only hope that it was nothing more than an expired mouse that put the room in need of a sachet, or perhaps something stronger.

Speaking of nightgowns … my friend Cherie has a big vegetable garden that is right now in peak production mode. She just bought a new nightgown on line, she told me, which she sometimes wears when she goes out to pick tomatoes. After all, she lives in an isolated area and knows that no one is likely to see her. Who’s going to notice?

Who? Why, her daughters, of course.

“The kids are calling it my all-terrain nightgown,” Cherie said, laughing.

Stay safe, and have a good week.