August 01, 2002

In Praise of August!

In Praise of August!

It is August at last. True, there may not be a great deal of difference in day or night-time temperatures, yet. But here in southwest Virginia, we can typically expect a tantalizing preview of Fall during the first half of the month, and there are 'signs of Fall' already, if you know what to look for.

The fall plants are up, although they're not very conspicuous yet. You won't notice them as you drive along the highway for another three weeks or so. But it is part of the pattern of things that the goldenrod, Queen of the Meadow (Joe Pye Weed) and Ironweed are soon to bloom, adding rich deep yellow, dusky mauve and royal purple to the pallet of color in every meadow and pasture border.

The starlings begin to grow restless, bunch up, then break apart into little groups again, like they cannot quite get comfortable with each other in a crowd. The instinct to migrate must be a powerful itch. It won't be long before an occasional Monarch butterfly shows up, passing by in loops and glides. Winged wisps of will, floating on the rising heat, at first in no particular direction and free of hurry, but then, later, unfailingly westward, toward winter roosts in such numbers that they break branches out of trees.

Wooly worms show up here in the next week or two. Again, not in large numbers, discovered here and there under a piece of firewood or scattered slab of barn board. Later, they cross the roads in large numbers in their brown and black three piece suits, looking for shelter for the coming winter.

In August, the locusts and walnuts, last to get their spring leaves, are first to shed them. Sumac will be among the first to redden, then Virginia Creeper...well ahead of the poplars, hickorys and maples...harbingers of Fall.

Some of the 'fallness' that I know I will feel this week, or next, has nothing to do with changes in the visible sense. It is a sensation that may be the feeling of the imperceptible loss of time as the days shorten, a resetting of our internal clocks that wake us up at certain points in the season, just like our inner alarms awaken us promptly every morning. I am confident that if you blindfolded me, and spun me around ten times, and placed me anywhere on the calender, I could tell you "this is early August", just by the feel of it.

Today I will breathe in the new smells that August will pour out in the valley...the scent of old hay, corn stalks going but not quite gone by, and a potpourri of plant matter in profusion, baked dry and fragrant by the July sun: monarda and pennyroyal, spicebush and sassafras. These aromas were present but not acknowledged in late July, but today I will seek them out, celebrate their presence, and stop more frequently for deep drafts of it during the day.

This week, or the next, I will exclaim "that is a Fall sky!" The round piled and billowed clouds of summer for a day or two will give way to clouds streaked and smeared, thin, high and attenuated with the ends turned up, against a turquoise sky.

Fall will make a few short sortees in August, then retreat, and return again to stay longer each visit. To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven. It is time for Fall, and I will be glad in it.

Posted by fred1st at August 1, 2002 06:00 AM
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