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Boreal Community Media

September's Song: an essay by local author John Bragstad

Sep 14, 2023 11:09AM ● By Content Editor
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By local author and writer John Bragstad for Boreal Community Media - September 14, 2023

In all the English language, few words express so much as the 
word “bittersweet.” We could round the edges a bit to make it 
less harsh. But as the days of September roll on, I think of this 
word and how it typifies this unsteady season. 

Bittersweet are kids leaving home for grade school, grade 
school for high school, and high school for college. Parents are 
all too aware of time’s passing and how that life stage is gone. 
There is a catch in the throat of regret yet also deep gratitude. 

The canoe season shows the first signs of closing down here in 
the Arrowhead. Some of us grieve that. But we also remember 
unique places and the people we were with those summer days. 

Our town is taking a breather from tourists. Color tours will start 
soon, and skiing after that. But the rush of the municipal park is 
over and, with that, the spirit of visitors strolling the harbor walk. 

Bittersweet encompasses so much more than ordinary 
language. It is “a mixture of sadness and happiness”  (Cambridge 
Dictionary). To me, it so perfectly describes much of 
life. Events are not only ambiguous grey. They have color on both ends: 
regret and mourning, deep joy and pleasure. 

A synonym for bittersweet is the word “poignant,” “something 
that affects you deeply.”(Collins English Dictionary). What an 
engaged pairing! People go back to see the farm or the old 
cabin. We remember with sadness those times now gone. We 
are thankful for the people we shared them with. It’s all one. 

In September, gardens will soon be cleaned up, poignant in 
their reminder of how quickly summer is gone and how seed 
catalogs will be arriving soon for another go around. 

Things seldom move in black-and-white. Our emotional world is 
intricately complex and yet quite simple if we can embrace both 
bitter and sweet together. 

As a therapist, I often would say to individuals, “You don’t have 
to choose.”

About the author

John A. Bragstad has been a therapist, working with couples and individuals, for 25 years. He is self-published and is enjoying retirement. Lake Superior is just off his front porch.

He has written three books: Compass Season, Loon Laughter at Midnight, and Who's Watching Whoo? They are available in Grand Marais at Drury Lane and Lake Superior Trading Post, or at

Related: Meet your Boreal Community Media Freelance Journalist: John Bragstad