Impressions of August

Reading and photographs by Robert Towe

From my nature journal: August 7. Unseasonably cool in recent days, now a two-blanket night in the 50’s. Through the open window the darkness chatters incessantly with Katydids. It seems we’ve gone from July straight into mid-September. Sometime before dawn I wake to cold rain rattling the dry oaks, then curl back into cozy sleep. . .

Now in the early light of an August morning, the sun gleams through thick fog. A slight breeze wakes the whole forest, shaking drops of rain from the heavy leaves...

Suddenly, I hear the fine whistling of pinions---the graceful pointed wings of wet doves flinging off raindrops, fluttering down from the pines to feed. In the green shadowy limbs, other doves are cooing. That wooing plaintive sound is one of the softest bird songs, ‘mourning’ at the edge of dark woods.

A high jetliner packed with human souls roars southwest across the sky, a tiny sunlit glint of silver shining in high cirrus, seven miles up, winging from New York to New Orleans. How powerful yet fragile, jet travel still seems. . .

From the blueberry thicket, two Towhees giggle to each other as they gobble the blue-black, ripening globes of fruit…They’ve already raised two broods of nestlings since spring. Now they’re fattening for fall. Towhees stay with us all winter, scratching under the leaves, under the snow.

Bending to the ground I watch a Harvestman, (aka “Daddy Longlegs”) his delicate limbs writing thin choreographs---little chopsticks of sun-shadow---dancing behind him as he walks into the low morning light…

A long line of ants scribbles across the patio, into a crack beneath the kitchen door. Perhaps we can learn something from their sense of oneness? ---such unselfish commitment to community, dedication to purpose, the survival of the tribe…..

A bright lemon-yellow Goldfinch sings cheerfully on a heavy nodding sunflower head, already bending with seed. Breeding later in summer than most birds, the goldfinch waits until seeds have begun to ripen and purple thistles spin their silky down, which she uses to line her nest…..

As we ride through the countryside these days, bottomlands are glistening emerald green with tall corn. I walk the long rows, looking for arrowheads in the silty loam, and listening: a thousand corn leaves whisper cryptic sentences of summer wind…

Neglected fencerows and country roadsides are lush now with a profusion of latesummer wildflowers---sky-blue Chickory, big snowflakes of Queen Anne’s Lace, heathery Joe Pye Weed, bright yellow Susan with her dark eyes, fire-colored Day Lilies, deep purple Ironweed, red-stemmed Poke, the auburn heads of Staghorn Sumac, and more. All the bright pigments wake something in me, a brush that has always wanted to lift itself and paint….

It is the time for butterflies. Late summer days flutter by on the richly tinted wings of black and yellow Swallowtails, flickering among the flowers of garden and field…

The big river is running lower this time of year as usual, thirsty forests drink most of the sporadic thunder rains. The low slow waters stir quietly around ancient smooth stones.

As the day heats up, cicadas start buzzing in the trees. Listening to that insistent drone---the quintessential sound of late summer---I imagine native dancers lost in time, shaking seed-gourds, praying to the Great Father Spirit----to bring plentiful rains, fat deer, full sweet ears of corn.