I experienced just such a walk this evening, and found myself contemplating the season. It's bloody hot, for one thing. By 7pm there was still not much respite from the heat and humidity, and the air was heavy. It wasn't just the humidity, though. There was a subtle hum on our country road, barely audible, but heard easily enough upon standing still: bees. Way up in the trees, and down at the flowers. I didn't see many of them, but their buzzing hung like a blanket in the air indicating a massive presence. The occasional horse fly also hummed by here and there. Within a few hours, once it is dark out, the cicadas and crickets will start singing their melodies. All of them sounds of industry in the insect world - sounds associated with getting food - or getting busy.
Even though the temperatures soar each day, it is not lost on me that the days grow shorter now, and that I must race out after dinner if I want to photograph in certain areas before the hills occlude the golden light of the setting sun. There seems to be a certain sense of busyness permeating the landscape, an urgency. Although it is not yet August, some birds are already working on putting on the body fat that they will need to sustain them through fall migration. It makes sense to me now why all these big juicy bugs and ripe fruits and nuts come out in abundance at this time of year - because they are needed, because they will prepare bodies for long travels or hibernation or for a time when the proverbial table is almost bare.
I took a good listen to the birds on tonight's walk, and was surprised to still hear so many birds singing despite the fact that breeding season is over for most of them. Scarlet and Summer Tanagers, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Eastern Towhee, Blue-grey Gnatcatcher, White-eyed Vireo - all easily discernible from their perches in and at the edges of the woods. I watched a family of Gnatcatchers gleaning insects from tree leaves, wishing I had my binoculars with me to see the young ones better. Out in the mowed field I could just barely make out an Eastern Bluebird singing, soft yet bubbly. Their burst of blue coloring will be a welcome sight when I come across them in winter - nothing like a bluebird contrasted against a field of snow to cheer you up.
Tall Ironweed catches the evening sun
When I set out on my walk, I walked briskly and with purpose to a few spots where I had spied certain flowers of interest from the car during my daily commute. The return walk was much more leisurely and casual, which allowed my mind to wander. I contemplated how our meteorological seasons seem to be much more attuned to the true "feel" of the seasons than do the solstices and equinoxes dictated by the astrological seasons. I thought about how even though there is a sense of urgency in the air, there is also a feeling of tiredness - as if the flowers, for example, are straining to give everything they've got to put out fruit before the it's too late and the strain is just wearing them out. I'm sure, however, that's just me forcing my own perceptions of tiredness of these hot days onto the landscape.
As I made my way up the driveway and started thinking about various projects that I need to get done, it dawned on me that my walk had taken my mind off the stuff of the every day. While I was sweaty as I approached the house, and my camera wasn't full of as many photos as I would have liked, I had been transported to a calmer place for a while, and there was certainly no more that I needed than that.
Monarch caterpillar on milkweed