Jim McGuire: Summer isn’t endless


Summer’s here. The passing solstice a week ago made it official—though given the sweltering weather which preceded this invisible astronomical milestone, many of us would argue the season had already arrived early.

The raucous hordes of periodical cicadas have all but disappeared. Good news to those of you who’ve been slapping, screaming and dodging, feeling besieged. These pesky insects won’t be seen—or heard!—hereabouts for another seventeen years.

Of course the more familiar annual cicadas—often called jar flies—will still be around. They’ll soon appear and begin their own ratchety droning. However, unlike their recent proliferate cousins, annual cicada emergence is low-key and scattered throughout the summer—from now until August. Only a few will be out and singing (okay, screeching) at any given time.

Robins still cheerily greet the dawn and fill twilight’s gathering shadows with melodious evensong. But while many birds do, indeed, continue to sing, their boisterous congregation is nothing to compare to the day-long avian chorus of earlier weeks.

Leaves are lush and green, still looking new. Their thick canopy provides darkened relief from bright summer sun, gives cooling shade when you’re dripping with sweat, and furnishes a handy and welcome refuge from those pop-up showers which sometimes waylay us as we ramble afield.

Early-summer days are long, often beginning in a glowing, gauzy mist with commensurate dewy diamond sparkles in the grass. A soft hush falls on rivers and streams, a peaceful quiet which early fisherman know often belies waiting action.

The midday hours stretch their definitions, starting well before noon and continuing until the afternoon begins to wane. Heat builds, drying the air—a force to be reckoned with should you decide to take a walk or work in the yard.

Sometimes after noon, thunder mutters in the west. Threats can become real; storms which materialize in a brief but dramatic show of light and sound—slashing and flashing, booming and crashing, though in their wake, leaving a drenching that’s really more refreshing than troublesome.

Dusk comes late and lingers. Mayflies and similar aquatic insects appear along the pools and riffles, and in the crepuscular light, hungry hunting swallows chitter and swoop as they feed. Later, as twilight fades into darkness, bats will twist and turn with incredible, high-speed agility as they intercept and gorge themselves on these same bugs.

The air cools in a contented sigh. As darkness deepens, frogs harrump along the creek while fireflies above the meadow out-twinkle the stars.

Nights are sultry, the moist air rich with sweet nicotiana, perhaps aided with the day’s honeyed mix of clover and milkweed—and an occasional minty twist or an added hint of bergamot.

While spring may be all about life and energy, birth and resurrection—reclaiming the land from winter’s icy grip, and the green miracle of vernal transformation—summer is where hope and promise translate into growth and fruition.

“Summer is when the growin’ gets done,” a gardening neighbor likes to say.

I thought of this summation recently when I stumbled across a dandy blackberry patch not far from home. It’s a bit early for our local wild berries to be ripe, but the briars I found are loaded, so I’ll definitely check back.

A few weeks of slow and steady summer heat and sunshine ought to do the trick. I have faith in that natural magic. In fact, my mouth is already watering just thinking about the blackberry cobblers!

My gardening neighbor has similar faith, too. Her backyard patch could be the cover shot for a seed catalog. Everything is in neat, well-tended rows—melons, sweet corn, green beans, peas, cucumbers, onions, lettuce, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, okra and peppers.

She’s especially fond of heirloom tomatoes and grows an incredible variety from seeds started indoors in late-March. Tomatoes with picturesque names such as Arkansas Traveler, Brandywine Red, Cherokee Purple, Mortgage Lifter, Kentucky Beefsteak, Long Tom, Purple Calabash, Sweet Million, Yellow Perfection, and Stump-of-the-World.

Summer’s hot sun and elixir rains—along with attentive nurturing and an occasional dollop of manure tea—produce unique and incredible tomatoes, which taste as unlike those fakes you buy at the grocery as a banana from a rutabaga!Thankfully, she is always extremely generous in sharing her delicious old-time treasures.

Not only have the seasons switched, but we’re also set to change months. June soon ends and July begins—and we’ll be halfway through the year.

The older I get, the more I feel like I’m living a scene depicting time’s passage in some vintage black-and-white movie. You know, where the hour hands of a wall-clock spins crazily around its face, or day-pages on a calendar stream onto the floor.

There’s nothing I can do about this phenomenon except try and make the most of my time.

Summer is worth savoring—but keep in mind, it isn’t endless.

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