Monday, July 5, 2010

July 5: Heat

It's a hot one here in New England, and I'm sitting in the shade at the river's edge while my husband fishes from a kayak just offshore. Birds sing all around us, trills and hums, and a loon just drifted by. Another loon sits on her eggs in the floating nest tethered just off their usual nesting island, where in past years the shifting water level has led to nest failure. Periodically a wind chime that sounds a bit like a cow bell rocks in the light breeze, or a bass jumps close to shore, the ripples slowly spreading outward. A lazy day, a holiday. A chipmunk just meandered under my chair and legs as if it hadn't a care in the world.

I'm ostensibly reading biologist Bernd Heinrich's book Summer World: A Season of Bounty as I sit here, but mostly I'm just listening to the birds and watching light play on the water. It's almost too hot to read--my brain just wants a siesta.

Heinrich says, "Summer is a time of green, urgency, lots of love lost and found. It is the most intense time of year, when the natural world of the northern hemisphere is almost suddenly populated with billions of animals awakening from dormancy, and billions more arriving from the tropics. Almost overnight there is a wild orgy of courting, mating, and rearing young. The main order of business in summer is reproduction."

For purposes of this book, "summer" is the period from May through October (the other six months of the year are beautifully covered in his book Winter World). Clearly at this point of the season I think we've moved beyond orgy into the rearing young phase, at least judging by the languorous mood prevailing today. There's more simple play happening than fooling around, in other words. (Cole Porter's lyrics to "Too Darn Hot" spring to mind.) A juvenile sparrow just chased a chickadee around a pine tree. And a few hours south of Maine, my niece's fourth birthday party just began, an all-girl, princess extravaganza. Yesterday my other niece, who turned one on the Solstice, took her first steps, and must've been so excited about it that she stayed up all night long, according to my weary sister. Rearing young is exhausting work--you won't catch me doing it--but it's an essential part of the cycle of life, the mature, summer part. Baby birds are busting out all over now, and adults fly urgently to and fro with beaks full of food. It's the season of bounty and new life, always something new to see, always something new to gather for the memory stores.

Afternoon heat rides
birdsong, trees' green reflections--
my skin's wet with it.

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