Jim McGuire: Primetime summer


July is already a week-and-a-half old!

In our calendar’s seasonal accounting, July serves as summer’s first full month. But additionally—and possibly worth considering in regards to your plans and intentions—as we spin along on our annual circular journey around the sun, July is also the first month in the year’s second and final half.

As my father liked to say: Time’s eternal river always keeps flowing endlessly along.

July’s dusks come late and linger—redolent, heavy-scented, carrying a hint of mist and pollen dust. Twilights scintillate with the soft twinkles of myriad lightning bugs as they rise and blink above the dew-damp grass.

Bats and nighthawks dive and swoop above the river, sifting the gathering darkness for insects.

Evenings are sometimes filled with the rumble of distant thunder, accompanied by the electrifying play of sheet lightning along the western horizon. Many July storms prove more bark than bite, petering out after an hour of flashy grumbling.

Robins continue to carol at dawn and dusk—though overall, birdsong has diminished noticeably from last month, and is paltry compared to the all-day symphonic clamor which filled our days during springtime’s peak.

Still, Carolina wrens sound as joyously effervescent as ever. Mockingbirds run their repertoires whenever the mood strikes . Indigo buntings, yellowthroats, flycatchers and vireos all continue to whistle from brushy lanes and woodlot edges.

For the past couple of weeks, a male Baltimore oriole, dazzling in orange-and-black, has whiled away his afternoons in the shady precincts of the side yard, poking about the upper branches of the big sycamores and old mulberry, loudly whistling his heart out.

If you happen to spend a July evening down in southeastern-Ohio’s hill country—maybe while enjoying a camping junket or when plying one of the area’s dandy rivers on a catfishing expedition—you can almost bet the apt-named whippoorwills will be calling monotonously from dusk until dawn.

July may be a bit indolent, even somewhat lazy—but it’s certainly not silent!

Neither is it dull.

Many of July’s colors are strong and eye-catching, almost tropical.

The van Gogh oranges of black-eyed Susans nodding in an abandoned field. Blood orange butterfly weed and roadside daylilies. Showy, south-of-the-border jewelweed along the creek. Royal catchfly in a vibrant crimson red, and equally dazzling cardinal flower, as scarlet as it namesake. And let’s not forget those terrific yellows of mullein, evening primrose, ragwort, sunflowers, and cinquefoils.

Bold, bright colors—orange, red, yellow—primaries and variations, but all on a fiesta-fitting theme—reflecting their own nuances of the season’s heat and sun. The very paintbox of summer itself!

Moreover, all this floral beauty adds a sweetness to July’s air—a fragrant mix of blooming clovers and flowering milkweed, with perhaps a dash of wild bergamot thrown in for that hint of mint and spice.

An unmistakable essence that’s all the while being busily stored in golden waxen comb by humming bees.

July is soft and serene, honey-sweet. It’s the season we dreamed about in bleak midwinter, when razor winds moaned around the eaves and the world was frozen icy-white. An inspiring, soul-saving, light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel vision we latched onto, gripping tight, the way a drowning man might seize a lifebuoy.

Not that the month is overly benign. A blazing-hot July afternoon with soaring humidity may feel like it’s trying to melt you into a squishy puddle, as near-liquified as a tar bubble on a country road. But there’s no real maliciousness involved. July is just doing its duty—getting on with the job at hand.

Summer unfurls in stages.

June’s introductory youthful portion was brief and impetuous. It served up some heat and treated us to the longest days in the year—but it also spent time and energy completing a few leftover landscaping needs remaining from spring’s vernal rush.

July, by contrast, is summer for certain! The season in top form and full of vigor. This is where the action is, the time and place where the brunt of the season’s growth happens.

July takes June’s brief introduction and absolutely blasts off! Rain and sunshine, heat and humidity work their magic. This is the most intense, hard-working and ground-gaining month in summer’s entire repertoire!

Sure, August will be all about finishing the seasonal work—the time for ripening, maturing, and putting up energy stores root-deep for the harsher months ahead. But it’s less the power worker than a final inspection supervisor making sure summer’s job gets done.

As to September’s two-thirds ration…well, it’s just nominal, a token labeling. Over-baked and dried up . A doddering senior truly on its last legs, awaiting that moment of official transmogrification into autumn.

But July…ahh-h, July always reveals to us summer’s vibrant heart—the season’s quintessential essence. Laidback days of potent sun and languid heat; lush and sultry nights, rich with sweet perfumes.

July is primetime summer!

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