Producer's note: Because of the global pandemic, Dave Anderson was not able to record this piece in NHPR's studio. Instead, he recorded through the microphone in his phone, while sitting in his Hyundai during a rain shower.
Because that's how he rolls.
My summer lament when weeks accelerate is there are really only two seasons: "summer waxing" and "summer waning." The former happily runs from January to June. The latter opens with the last dying echo of Fourth of July fireworks and extends toward a darkening tunnel of autumn.
Most people don’t notice until “Back to School” sales pop up everywhere. I notice the subtle changing angle of summer sunlight before mid-July with an inherited Yankee gothic dose of “It could be worse” and then “probably will be soon.”
By late July --with pre-dawn light glowing faintly in the east-- the songbird chorus softens. The riotous May-to-June symphony of 20 bird species is dominated now by fewer than 10. The most faithful, persistent singers: Cardinals, Robins, Wood thrush, Ovenbirds, and Common yellow-throat warblers and the endless phrasing of a red-eyed vireo. The songs now fade before 8 am (except the vireo); their lusty territorial-nesting impulses ebb like a summer romance.
Empty nesters. Their fledglings on-the-wing. In August, bright breeding plumage feathers molt to drab colors, fall travelling attire.
Raucous crows teach fledglings to herd grasshoppers across mowed fields. An elusive, wandering black-billed cuckoo calls in soft triplicate – Coo-coo-coo. They follow the emergence of hairy caterpillars. In mid-summer, brown apple and maple leaves – the work of hungry caterpillars – heralds the arrival of the cuckoos.
Next month brings flashing fireflies and fattening frogs. An increasing electrical buzz of insects – grasshoppers and crickets both morning and evening – becomes a ceaseless soundtrack of summer, like sand through an hourglass. The gas gauge seems suddenly startling at “half full.”
The daily dose of summer sunlight is stored in warm flat stones of the garden path and sunny stonewalls where garter snakes laze and bask.
Ditch weeds are flowering: Clover, Daisies, Brown-eyed Susans gone wild. Dusty plants await rain. Tree leaves ripple and show their pale underbellies in a stiffening breeze -- with the promise of what might be rain.
Do not resist a yawn and sigh at bedtime with sunlight fading by 8:30 pm on a midsummer evening: windows open, ceiling fan humming.
The annual “Perseids” meteor shower will peak overnight on August 11 and 12 with 60 to 100 meteors visible per hour. Go outside and lie on your back in the grass, your own backyard planetarium.
The shooting stars, belching frogs and dusty flowers are all blazing trails toward another approaching winter.
We understand the undeniable metaphor of the seasons: spring is youth, summer, our most-productive sunshiny middle age, and how autumn represents the first gray hairs of senescence; a gradual descent into winter's little death.
Carpe diem, friends.
Go gather a bouquet of wild flowers for the dinner table, walk barefoot in the sand, and enjoy the intoxicating smell that pine needles make when they bake in the sun. Autumn will soon be here. Sooner than you may care to admit.
The wheels of time roll along the horizontal rails of the X-axis, even as questions without answers float like thunderclouds above our heads:
“What’s coming next?”
In a moment that feels so uncertain, we find solace in the knowledge that the wheel keeps spinning. And although the days - little by little -- grow shorter, we can find and appreciate the beauty in the here and now.
Something Wild is a joint production of NH Audubon, the Society for the Protection of NH Forests and NHPR. Our producer is Emily Quirk.