Editors Notebook: Scenes of summer

by | Jul 7, 2017 | Editorial

The mockingbird is stationed at the tiptop of a giant pine in our front yard in the gray light. His renditions come out in this order — cardinal, Chuck-wills-widow, summer tanager, thrasher — along with pieces of other broken melodies mixed with various warbles and flutes. A towhee joins him in song from across the neighbor’s horse meadow. Chickadees and nuthatches chime in gently as well.

A doe nibbles at trumpet vines, a fresh fawn by her side, as I sip honey-sweetened coffee and the sun’s rays strengthen by the second. Tangles of morning glory have produced one early flower and a fat bumbling bee explores its lavender petals before venturing further in. The sweet spicy smell of bergamot mingles with the black-licorice scent of hyssops as bees converge on both. I can’t blame them. My nose brought me to the flowerbed, too.

Prairie lizards aren’t moving yet, but a tiny, shiny brown skink soaks in the early light before scurrying into leaf litter still decomposing from last fall as a roadrunner clacks and coos from the underbrush. Fish crows flap their way to the lake, their nasal caws surely discussing what all they plan to do during a day near the water. I’m envious.

Morning morphs into midday as the sun chases away some of the humidity, but only some. It’s still muggy and now it’s hot and that makes everything lazy. Grasshoppers buzz and hum from the high grass in lackadaisical tones. A normally fervent gray squirrel sprawls on a post oak branch as a warm breeze gently rustles the hickory leaves in their midsummer green.

I’ve ventured out to feel summer on my skin. It brings back memories of a time when I did not care how hot it got. My folks didn’t have air conditioning and so even during the most brutal summer days of my childhood, a shade tree and a popsicle was the best I could hope for. Funny how I don’t recall feeling at all deprived. But I’m older and softer now, tenderized by three decades of climate control, so I soon retreat back to the cool shadows of my office. The mockingbird clicks and buzzes with no enthusiasm from his shaded vantage point on a post in my garden as I turn to the door.

Slanting light of late afternoon illuminates the tickseed along my neighbor’s ditch, and I smile with some pride. The flowers of summer left standing make me think that my yard, splotched with wild patches, have had some influence on other’s thinking. Summer’s symphony builds inversely as the light fades — cicadas, crickets, katydids, tree frogs — and then the light show begins as chartreuse blinks and winks fill the early twilight of my shaded backyard. Blue jays and indigo buntings make a last run at the bird feeder before darkness sends them to roost.

Near midnight now, a pale silver light falls on the mockingbird back in the pine. His night song fills the air as summer settles easily over the River Valley.

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