Thursday, September 10, 2015

Being "there" in September

Except for an occasional specialized class, my formal schooling ended during the last millennium in the century prior to this one. Over time, now that my own children are also out of school, September has lost its relevance for me as "back to school" time. When I was in school, I did notice that the leaves were changing color and starting to fall but I never learned that September is the time when monarch butterflies and ruby-throated hummingbirds begin their southerly migration. Later when I learned about fishing for striped bass and bluefish on the East Coast I also gained knowledge that neither of them were year round inhabitants of the waters near Cape Cod. Depending on the weather and the storm patterns, they headed south sometimes in late September, but usually not until October.

September colors
September colors
Photo by J. Harrington

After I'd become a neophyte duck hunter, late September and early October brought terrible conflicts about the amount of time I could devote to catching the Autumn "blitz" of stripers and blues feeding as they headed toward the Chesapeake and Carolinas compared to time spent sitting in a duck blind waiting for fall's first migrant flocks. A surfeit of opportunities can sometimes be almost, but not quite, as bad as having none at all. Remember being a kid trying to decide among 26 (Howard Johnson's) or 31 (Baskin-Robbins) flavors of ice cream? I learned to take my "Summer" vacation in October.

hawk migration
hawk migration
Photo by J. Harrington

Duck hunters may not know that hawks, as well as ducks, migrate south, but naturalists are supposed to, I think. I lived in Minnesota for many years and visited Duluth many, many times before I made it to Hawk Ridge. While I lived in Massachusetts, I never did make it to Wachusett Mountain to observe hawk migration there, but then, until very recently, I never knew that some dragonflies migrate along with hawks. Learning doesn't have to stop when formal schooling ends.

dragonfly on Duluth screen
dragonfly on Duluth screen
Photo by J. Harrington

Fishing, and, much later, hunting, became some of the early doors that opened wide to invite me into a love affair with the outdoors. Others involved gathering driftwood with my "family of origin" along a Winter's beach, to later become magical blue and green flames in the fireplace at home, and picking blueberries with my mother and sister at a local conservation area. I don't recall my parents urging me to learn about the natural world around me, but they did make sure I had lots of opportunities to explore it in a no pressure kind of way. I probably never did properly or adequately thank them for that.

Each year when Autumn rolls around, I'm reminded of the wonderful description written by Gene Hill, one of my favorite "outdoor" writers, about the pleasures of Being There. I wish you as much joy from being wherever or whenever your "there" may be as Mr. Hill and I have found. Now I'm going to go see about getting some pictures of what I think are recently come into bloom New England asters I noticed growing along the road nearby. Flowers may be observed at 30 miles per hour but such identifications are chancy.

The Ruby Throated Hummingbirds Are Gone

By Daniela Gioseffi 
They've flown south now
and one Great Egret fishes the pond
as broad-winged hawks begin their migrations,
kenneling on thermal currents of wind
off above yellowing mountains.
Now, snakeweed blooms along the trail choking
white and purple asters. A few bleeding
leaves fall amidst wilting greenery. Poison
Ivy turns red with warning. 
My eighty-three-year-old mother still argues
with my father, twelve years dead. Their hatred
reverberates in a back room
of my head, rattling memories of my lonely childhood.
Their loathing for each other
colors all my days with pain. I loved him
because he loved me best, but I look like her,
my face and spirit tear at each other.
Am I the child of hate? 
A wounded love sprouts like a weed
from watery depths, uncultivated,
flowers, white and purple, bloom,
       even in these days of dying leaves.
Beyond winter,
       no one grieves.

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Please be kind to each other while you can.