Saturday, August 12, 2017

Pending impending change #phenology

Have you noticed any asters in bloom this month? We haven't yet, but expect to see some soon, perhaps this week. It may have been just last year that we first noticed them blooming along our local township road. Then again, it was just last year that we noticed the local cluster of prairie smoke. Both could have been there longer than the past few years, but maybe not. Seasonal changes in our local fields are sometimes compounded by successional changes in the number and kinds of plants that can be seen, depending on the weather. Last year, beardtongue was much more abundant in our fields than this year. Will next year bring a restoration of beardtongue amplitude? We'll see.

road side asters
road side asters
Photo by J. Harrington

It may be a little early to look for wooly bear caterpillars, but here's a piece of information to keep in mind as we start watching for prediction's of what kind of Winter is in store for us. The Isabella Tiger Moth or Banded Woolybear "Caterpillar (Black-ended Bear or Woolly Bear) colors change as they molt to successive instars, becoming less black and more reddish as they age." Now, if we stop to think about that, it says nothing about whether milder Winters are predicted by older caterpillars (redder = milder). In fact, since the caterpillars freeze almost solid over Winter, it's hard to figure out where the folklore came from, unless folks were thinking redder = warmer? Does anyone have a more definitive historic perspective? In any case, if you see one, be sure to help it across the road when there's no traffic. You could be a crossing guard for wooly bears.

August 12 in the Nebraska Sand Hills Watching the Perseids
Meteor Shower



In the middle of rolling grasslands, away from lights,
a moonless night untethers its wild polka-dots,
the formations we can name competing for attention
in a twinkling and crowded sky-bowl.

Out from the corners, our eyes detect a maverick meteor,
a transient streak, and lying back toward midnight
on the heft of our car hood, all conversation blunted,
we were at once unnerved and somehow restored.

Out here, a furrow of spring-fed river threads
through ranches in the tens of thousands of acres.
Like cattle, we are powerless, by instinct can see
why early people trembled and deliberated the heavens.

Off in the distance those cattle make themselves known,
a bird song moves singular across the horizon.
Not yet 2:00, and bits of comet dust, the Perseids,
startle and skim the atmosphere like skipping stones.

In the leaden dark, we are utterly alone. As I rub the ridges
on the back of your hand, our love for all things warm
and pulsing crescendos toward dawn: this timeless awe,
your breath floating with mine upward into the stars.


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