09/10/2013 04:45 pm ET Updated Nov 10, 2013

Happy Birthday

I have never been a fan of summer; even as a little girl, it all seemed too bright and too steamy, the sun with a heavy hand on the land, the light dense, the Earth holding its breath in the heat. But there is that time of year as the season wanes, just on the edge of the onset of autumn when August ends, September begins and it's my birthday.

I cannot believe it'll soon be my birthday! There'll be so much to look at and remember, to study and savor. It doesn't matter that I am a middle-aged woman fading like the season's flowers -- I want balloons badly, baby blue and lavender and green. And a high white cake with snowy coconut on silky frosting. I'll make it myself and lick the spoon and bowl and add two dozen candles when its ready to cut. And reminisce about a man who once serenaded me in a soaring alto voice on a velvety birthday night long ago, his face beautiful in the glow.

I'll have hot coffee early, even before the smoky shadows have evaporated from under the eaves. I'll stop by church to say a prayer, sitting in the dark wooden pews that smell of lemon polish, to witness my day streaming through the stained glass windows and all that colored light spilling along the freshly waxed floors. And scatter birdseed across my mother's gravestone as I have done before on this day, watching the sparrows dip their beaks in the curved, carved letters of her name while I leave a single saffron rose there in the shadow of the ginkgo tree.

Later, I'll choose my ice cream flavor carefully at the corner store, something caramel maybe, buy the ruby-reddest apple I can find to eat while I walk, tell everyone I meet that it's my birthday today, all day long. And then hang fancy, scalloped bunting from the ceiling lamp when I get home. And while the cake is baking, the white dog and I will head out into a field I love to just spend time standing in, where the amethyst ironweed left over from the month before intermingles with the frilly ecru of the Queen Anne's lace. I will look at the landscape and see my birthday gifts everywhere: the cloud of monarchs moving like a weather front through the fragrant pines, readying themselves for migration to Mexico; the last of the emerald hummingbirds whirring in the spent honeysuckle, their backs reflecting the sun like foil; gilded finches busy in the thistle, pulling at the satiny lint to line their late summer nests.

I want to lay in the high grass the way I did when I was 5. To roll down the small slope beyond the garden fence, sending the crickets into a chorus as I go, past the broken melon with the tipsy wasps crazy at its crimson core, Earth and sky spinning in my vision like a kaleidoscope. And stop suddenly, being very still, with the dog's rapid breath matching the beating of my heart, to watch the dusk begin to bloom. There will be a slow letting go of light, the Earth cooling beneath my cheek, and in the ensuing hours I'll hope for a sparkling shower of falling stars to start, continuing August's show. Stars, I was certain, as a child, that I could catch like hailstones in my hands. And the moon will rise ripe and round, the same moon that was waning gibbous the day I was born.

I'll close my eyes and listen for the breeze in the trees like a lullaby my mother once sang to me. "Happy Birthday, Jana Lee."