New month; new season
Summer is but a memory
By Mitch Mode
Special to the Star Journal
Summer leaves the stage with little fanfare; the fall of a leaf, the turn of a calendar page, a slow drift of time. No drama, no excitement, no celebration; summer simply ends. Labor Day rolls in and summer is gone to memory.
Autumn starts in beauty, ends in turmoil, a ship on stormy seas coming hard to rocky shoals in November storm, a flurry of snow and wind, a grayness in the world of shortening days and wild winds in the darkness. Winter fights desperately to hold its ground against the end; late season snowfalls and unexpected chill as the season throws all it has left against its inevitable demise.
Spring is a frail season, delicate as a new flower, easily upset, petulant and pouty. Spring is a lightweight, uncertain and lacking confidence to stand up and move forward. Spring often does not end because spring, in some years, never really begins.
But summer, a heavyweight of a season, folds its tent, packs it all up and goes away. It leaves without much notice, moves on without celebration or despair, simply is gone come the first week of September.
Summer passes in an accumulation of small changes, each by itself inconsequential but combining to a totality of season change, summer passage to autumn, heat to chill, slow moving days to the increased pace of change in fall.
I watch the hummingbird with burred wings, body no larger than my little finger, watch the bird and marvel at the task at hand; they will fly to Mexico or farther. The bird zips across the yard, swivels to look at the red apple, then turns and is gone. On the wings of the hummer goes the spirit of summer.
The wrens nested late, left the cedar house two weeks ago. Gone south, gone ahead of summer passing. On the edge the lake mallards dip for newly fallen acorns in the golden light of early evening. Geese honk in the distance; crane calls once, then silent, restless in the twilight of the season. Small signs all but omens of summers fade.
It’s over; summer. Over and done and if you left summer tasks undone they will likely stay undone. September is nigh and try as you might it is a different time, a different season and you cannot undo the change that has come, slowly, subtly, as summer gives way.
In the evening I sit in the yard and watch the dogs, Bella as she nears three months, Fenway at seven years plus. They have found their way as dogs do, sorting things out over time together. They are a pack of two with the cat, Trout, on the sidelines, watching their every move, sphinx-like, keeping her eye on the antics of the two dogs as they barrel across the living room and backyard. She tolerates; she does not approve.
Evening brings shadow now and a coolness that even two weeks ago was not there. In the backyard the dogs romp and I watch them. Bella’s lineage is of a hunt dog and we fumble at attempts to train her. She has little desire to chase the toys we toss for her and, when she does get them, even less inclination to bring them to us or, heaven forbid, give them up to us. Her teeth clamp down like a steel trap and we entreat her, in vain, to give. She is willful and defiant.
Fenway watches with disdain on our efforts, showing interest only when we bring out treats to entice Bella. In the presence of treats Fenway comes alert and attentive shouldering Bella aside. She, leggy but soft, is taller than Fenway but is of soft puppy flesh next to his hard muscle and rock-like head.
We sit, three of us, in the yard as summer slides toward the horizon and the season teeters toward autumn. Behind us is the time of heat and the slow moving summer days. Ahead the time of chill and shortening of daylight times and hunt season. I wonder if the dogs feel it in their bones, if they are moved in a way the birds of summer are moved to take flight, moved by forces of change that they feel, the uneasiness that must come to their souls.
Do the birds, staging for migration, feel unsettled as they do when they feel a storm rising in power over the horizon, unseen but not unfelt. I wonder if the birds feel trepidation of a sort as their summer shortens and then is gone and they lift wing and turn in flight to the south.
I will never know the answers to those questions. I know only that the summer is gone no matter what the calendar says. I know it by the flight of the birds and the splash of red leaf in the greenery and the richness of black-blue blackberries on thorny stems under afternoon sun; see it in the low angle of sundown light and hear it in the call of crane and goose and feel it at dawning when there is a coolness to the world and a heavy dew on the grass.
I know of the passing of summer when I sit in the yard and watch the dogs at play. I wonder of Bella in the days of the hunt to come, too young to expect much of her but still, one must put her in the field to see what she can do. I watch her at play.
In the sky a movement; a single bird, a nighthawk riding the sweep of its scimitar wings, swooping, moving south. Then another and another and the evening passes with the nighthawks in their silent migration and when they are gone so gone is summer.
When it is too dark to see I call the dogs and we go inside where the warmth of the house feels good after the evening chill. Fall is in the air.
An assortment of outdoor products is available at Mel’s Trading Post, downtown Rhinelander. Call 715-362-5800.