When the hummingbirds leave around the first of October, the party goes kind of flat. Your favorite guests have gone—not that you don't care for the others, too, of course. But the goldfinches, housefinches, sparrows, and mourning doves are the mixed nuts of the party, while the hummingbirds are the champagne. You can count on them to add zest and a touch of magic to anything they do. And with their explosive tempers, you never know when sparks will fly, or when a high-speed chase will ensue. You wouldn't enjoy the party nearly as much without the other birds, but when the hummingbirds leave, they take a lot of the fizz with them.
When the sandhill cranes return near the end of the month, then, they are doubly welcome. You hear their creaky purr sounding long before you see them, and when you first catch sight of them gliding down the Rio Grande valley, the sun glinting off their silvery, upturned wings against an azure sky... Oh, they do know how to make an entrance. Late arrivals though they are, they breathe new, dramatic life back into the party. They bring a new character to it, too, a touch of elegance and dignity.
The cranes arrive about when the first of the fall-blooming crocuses opens. In the garden, 'Wild Thing' autumn sage (Salvia greggii) may still be partying hard—if anything, blooming even more raucously than usual—but everything else is getting sleepy and quiet. The agastache is winding down, the gaura looking tired, the West Texas grass sage ready to call it a day. When the crocuses suddenly appear from nowhere, you welcome them with delight. They bring a bright presence with them as they sound the last hurrah of the growing season.
The crocuses, though—they'll be gone before you know it. (Actually, last year one crocus or another bloomed through to December. But each particular crocus is only around for a short while.) For all their glowing color, they are fragile, ephemeral. They remind you to make the most of every shining moment, and to enjoy their company while you can.
But don't get despondent about the passing of autumn or the fleeting nature of time or anything.
'Wild Thing' will still be partying hard tomorrow.