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David Nightingale: Late Summer

Still summer, but I come down this morning and see yellow leaves on the lawn.

 A groundhog detects this slight movement in my house, and scurries away, his fat form trying to appear invisible -- first under the car then rapidly off to his hole under the rock that he thinks we don't know about.

 A shaft of sunlight through the trees, as from a theater spotlight, fully illuminates a squirrel sitting on a rock. I don't think he knows there's an audience; he's just enjoying the warmth.

Three wild turkeys, fleshy snood on beaks, red wattles on neck and throat, wander past the house, majestically making their way into the woods, at their own pace. They are males, apparently polygamous by nature, doing their utmost to attract as many hens as possible, by snood, wattle and hanging beard -- that bundle of feathers dangling from the breast like a gentleman's tie put on too low.

They pause, and one stretches full length, tail touching the ground, head and neck reaching upward, an impressive pose reminding one of a dinosaur. Ben Franklin thought they should be our national bird, ancient natives that he thought were of better character than the bald eagle.

Yes, summer still. About 80 Fahrenheit -- even the thermometer someone placed 6 inches below the surface of a pristine Shongum lake confirms as much. Blue days, high 50s at night. Brilliant red geraniums still budding; portulaca coming out from its overnight sleep, greeting the sun with its small yellow flowers -- flowers that occasional birds like to nuzzle and toss, but fortunately not destroy.

Queen Anne's lace, edible blue chicory at the roadsides, and the orange and crimson tiger lilies, also edible, largely over. Pansies, petunia, nearly so. Busy-lizzies, impatience (spelled impatiens) thrive with non-stop blossoms.

But, those dry leaves on the lawn. Say it ain't so.

Later, still the end of August -- two hours in the shade, with a book, by that lake. The cool swim, while the afternoon sunlight dims only briefly, as tufts of occasional high white clouds pass.

On my bicycle now, the air rushes and flows past, and deer and squirrels cross in front. But, hat and scarf and gloves were only 5 months ago. Tell me those leaves in the road are but a mistake -- maybe a couple of dead trees the cause?

The begonia, petunia, catalina, scaevola need watering -- there's always a snag is there not? Things are too dry.

A little while ago the sun set at 8:35 pm; now it's nearer 7:35. The evening walk, still warm enough, has had to be shifted earlier, although moonlight and stars and meadow smells are as wonderful as they were six weeks back.

Driving into town, past goldenrod and purple loosestrife, I see there are more leaves swirling in vortices behind me. My theory was wrong. September's a beautiful month, but just now -- oh dear -- I saw some red ones.

Gotta admit, summer's nearly over. So, mindset must gradually morph towards log-splitting, harvesting, repairing, evening fires, work, and those myriad activities of mankind directly related to season.

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