Monday, July 31, 2017

Arrival of Summer's best? #phenology

This morning, as I drove past the tree-shaded front yard of a farm down the road, I noticed a handful of sandhill cranes, including at least a couple of fully feathered juveniles that were noticeably less tall than the adults. (At what point does a colt become a juvenile, when fully feathered?) Combine that sighting with the local weather and today will be a contender for the best day of Summer, 2017. If you haven't yet read Aldo Leopold's Marshland Elegy, and its celebration of sandhill cranes, August would be an ideal time to do so. Soon the cranes will be gone, for now, just until next Spring. They're one more of Summer's delights to treasure while we can. As this year's juveniles, of all local species, reach the beginnings of adulthood, we'll have more and more glimpses of them as they learn their way around.

late Summer, sandhill cranes staging and feeding
late Summer, sandhill cranes staging and feeding
Photo by J. Harrington

The bluebird adults continue to arrive at the nesting box, presumably with insects to feed the chicks. Every once in a while a monarch or swallowtail butterfly drifts through the yard. Tomorrow is the first day of the last month of (meteorological) Summer. August brings us the Anishnaabe miini-giizis, berry moon, more goldenrod pollen than we want, more birds begin staging and feasting in preparation for migration (our hummingbird feeders have started to be emptied much quicker than at the beginning of the season), blooming asters will become more evident and local gardens and farmers will be providing an abundance of sweet corn, tomatoes and a multitude of other vegetables. The year will be approaching its fullness.

The Shapes of Leaves



Arthur Sze, 1950


Ginkgo, cottonwood, pin oak, sweet gum, tulip tree:
our emotions resemble leaves and alive
to their shapes we are nourished.

Have you felt the expanse and contours of grief
along the edges of a big Norway maple?
Have you winced at the orange flare

searing the curves of a curling dogwood?
I have seen from the air logged islands,
each with a network of branching gravel roads,

and felt a moment of pure anger, aspen gold.
I have seen sandhill cranes moving in an open field,
a single white whooping crane in the flock.

And I have traveled along the contours 
of leaves that have no name. Here
where the air is wet and the light is cool, 

I feel what others are thinking and do not speak,
I know pleasure in the veins of a sugar maple,
I am living at the edge of a new leaf.


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