This summer.

August 24, 2014 § 14 Comments

Milkweed seed.Summer 2014 has not yet acknowledged it, but we have.

This summer is over.

That doesn’t mean it isn’t putting up a fight.

Here in North Florida we have hit that annual patch of days when the temperature tops 100 without the feels-like fudge factor of the heat index.

Walk across the parking lot at WalMart to pick up three ring binders and pens and the solar wind rising off the asphalt will lift your skirt and take your breath away.

But school’s been on for a week now. An informal survey of the kids in the neighborhood about week-one ranges from, “Second grade is awe-some!” to a wistful shrug. Nothing, in the course of human events signals the end of summer like back-to school.

So what can I say about the summer of 2014 before we box it up and set it on the shelf of summers past?

For one thing it has been declared the worst fly season in forty years. Events all over North Florida were cancelled on account of biting flies.

Since we all knew they were bad we are proud they were bad enough to nail that forty year title. Humans like records, we like shared misery. It brings us together. It gives us something to brag about later, like the claim that we walked to school, five miles each way, uphill in both directions.

Bob Graham at the rally for his daughter, Gwen.

Bob Graham at the rally for his daughter, Gwen.

I’d like to add to that record of misery that the gnats were danged bad as well.

Making music at the rally for Gwen Graham the gnats decided that my eyes made dandy swimming pools.

Oh, the misery.

I’ll tell the story for years to come.

In the garden, it was a no-show year for eggplants, and I can’t even blame the fire ants that like to bore into any fruit that touches the ground.

The eggplant didn’t bother to fruit.

Tomatoes did their usual flash dance, here and gone. When daytime temperatures level out above ninety, tomatoes have a hard time setting fruit.

Above-ninety is summer’s middle name here.

Peppers? Peppers are the warhorse of our summer garden, not just this year, but every year. While all around them their fellow vegetables lie dead or dying they will pump out pepper after pepper until a hard freeze gets their attention.

Plums, not yet ripe.

Plums, not yet ripe.

The blueberries have been bumper. No late arriving frost nipped them in flower so whether wild or cultivated they’ve come in and come in.

Right now the muscadines and scuppernongs are ripening on the arbor—although few get to fully ripe before the squirrels, raccoons and ‘possums throw a night time party and eat them, one day short of time-to-pick.

Now is the most active butterfly time in the Florida wild year.

Late summer brings fritillaries and zebra longwings, sulphurs, queens and skippers.

Every year we say, not much of a butterfly year, giving up too early—and then they pour in.

But so far?

Not much of a butterfly year.

One lone Gulf Fritillary lay on the path this morning, responding feebly to an ant attack.

Cicadas are in full chorus, screaming their lungs out (if they have lungs) announcing that the end is near.

The sky is putting on a daily cumulus-nimbus display of epic proportions, bringing down intense scattered showers that squelch the heat briefly, then rise again as humidity—to become the next cloud display.

In many ways we are in the part of the season that is the most dramatic, summer doing its darnedest.

But we humans have bought new shoes. Sharpened pencils. Met new teachers. Packed lunches. Thanked God the kids are back in school. Reminded ourselves of goals set that now seem more attainable with cooler weather right around the corner.

Soon we will trace our hands on brown construction paper and turn the hand-shapes we cut out into turkeys.

We’ll buy new sweaters.

Ask for that promotion.

Tape paper snowflakes to our windows.

Impatient, we push summer out the door and lean into the wind of something new.

Note: Here is an earlier report; summer 2011.

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