HIGH SUMMER SIMMER(part 1)
SENSUAL SUMMER - I sit here on a perfect, warm, very late July evening, windows and doors wide open, trying to encourage any possible breeze to drift through the house, as bugs incessantly, tirelessly crash into the screens, testing our defenses, trying in vain to reach their Holy Grail - light - any light whatsoever, whether it is the inaccessible (unless you’re too slow to close the screen-door) lights in the house or the all-too-accessible street-light that I watch - a very efficient insect-trap perfectly made for bats and large moths as well as the occasional owl scooping up one of the aforementioned hapless bats. I’m drinking in the wealth of insect cacophony as the several species of cricket, the Annual Cicadas and Katydids all chorus together in their age-old song. I want to absorb these all-too-ephemeral sounds and feelings into my very being, knowing that not 90 days from now only a few crickets will remain (safe in my garage for the winter), and the windows will be mostly closed. Yes, I love all the seasons, particularly at our latitude where they are approximately the same length. Having lived in more northerly places like Labrador and Maine, with their distinctly longer winters, I still truly appreciate the balance in the seasons we’re able to enjoy here in the southeast Catskills. Having said that, I love summer most of all and maybe more so as the years go along: the joys of walking immersed in life in all of its forms; the great pleasure of slipping into the cool Sawkill after sweating in the heat; the ability to, and freedom of, dressing lightly and minimally - even to go barefoot and feel the earth - these are some of the joys of summer for me. Fall is great, just for being its incredible, full-spectrum, cooler “self”, but also as a means to gradually (hopefully) get us used to the approach of winter. Thank goodness for it! Just imagine how horrible it would be if we skipped fall and went straight to winter, from hot to cold, from green to frozen barrenness, without the intervening coloration and moderate temperatures to gradually acclimatize us. I think that if our seasons didn’t change we wouldn’t value them - it would just be “ho hum, another beautiful day”.
THE GLORIOUS SEASON - These extraordinary days of high summer roll past in our inexorable seasonal cycle. Long-light evenings seem like they’ll never end. The Sunset Place is so far north that it seems like it will bend right around to the Sunrise Place (that would be interesting!). The season seems to shout “Do everything! Do it now! Go, go, go!”. And we do try to do everything, which is probably why we all wonder “Why is summer going by so fast? Why am I so tired?”. This is probably just part and parcel of the season. Do the Honey Bees and Grasshoppers wonder where the heck summer is disappearing to? I wonder if the Red-tail Hawks feel harried (ha!) as they feed their fledglings. Do they worry as they watch them fledge, wondering if they’ll make it (not all do)? Of course, I’m just being your average human - anthropomorphizing again - trying to understand wild animals through a human “lens”, putting human feelings and thoughts onto them. I do believe that all beings have awareness and emotion - probably not always in ways we can understand (that won’t stop us from trying). And the truth is that many of these creatures probably have more understanding of their role in nature than most of us do. For instance, they may accept more readily that some will die in order to feed others and that all of us will eventually feed the earth.
LAYERS UPON LAYERS - So much life is in evidence now - “making hay while the sun shines”. Both forest and meadow are about as lush as they can be - one cool and dark, the other, hot and sunny. Since the forest canopy (the Overstory) has now filled in, the primary growth there is that of the Understory (smaller tree-species like Striped Maple, Flowering Dogwood and Sassafras) and below it is the Shrub-layer (Mountain Laurel and Viburnums, for instance). Under that is the Herb/Fern layer. This is all called Stratification and our over-abundance of White-tail Deer is affecting it negatively with over-browsing. In contrast, the only strategy for growth in the fields and meadows right now is which plant - divers Asters, Beebalm, Bell Campion, various Goldenrods, Milkweed, Mullein, Queen Anne’s Lace, Thistles and more - can grow tallest, fastest.
TRANSFORMATION - Summer is a time of great change, of phenomenal transformation. The Milkweed plant of early summer is not the same plant you see today. It is fully grown now and may have been pollinated by a Monarch who then laid an egg under its leaf. The Bald Eagles that built their nest in the winter are not the same eagles today as they feed their fledglings and watch their first awkward flights. This is also a time of change and growth for people. Summer gives us the chance to be outside (of ourselves?) more than we generally are. We travel more, to the shore, to visit relatives, etc. By getting out into our world we meet people we normally wouldn’t and we do new things that we probably wouldn’t ordinarily do and these activities make us learn and grow (sometimes whether we like it or not!). In this season we get to see ourselves reflected in/by others - like the Mirrors we all are - whereas in winter, because we’re more “cooped up”, we delve into our own selves in a more introspective, reflective manner.
A Zen macrobiotic might say summer is more yang - hot, expansive and that winter is more yin - cool, contracting. It could be that by the end of this season none of us will be exactly the same person we were at the beginning (of course, some of us weren’t the same to begin with!) (?). Thank you all for your continuing support and encouragement.
Please monitor journeynorth.org for all things migratory, insideandoutupstateny.com for all things Hudson Valley and for my own blog, please visit www.woodstocknytrails.com and have a great - and Safe - summer.
Take Care, “Ranger”Dave Holden
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