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On the Cusp of Fall
September 10, 2023
“I don’t know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention…” - excerpt from Mary Oliver’s, “The Summer Day”
On the cusp of fall the sun rises later every day, already an hour later than mid-summer. Temperatures cool, mostly, as summer and fall play tug-of-war. The lake is calm, the lake is choppy, the winds are still, the winds blow. Birds begin to trickle in, a few at a time, moving south and stopping only if it suits them.
The flock of chimney swifts seem to grow each day. The swirling flock passes overhead while some swifts dive through the water. The whole swirl moves back and forth, up and down the cove. So many chimney swifts and yet so hard to photograph. I let myself sink into the swirl, move with its rhythm, and enjoy it while I still can.
Sixty or more turkey vultures have claimed the swimming beach that has closed to humans for the year. Young turkey vultures joust with each other and curiously approach the water to see what it’s about. Adults dry out their feathers and claim the best perches, on the lifeguard chairs, the fence and the roof of the building. Their numbers are growing too as they prepare to head south.
Great egrets grace the lake and occasionally remind me that they squawk just like blue herons when they don’t get their way. That squawk belies their elegance in the air, they seem to deserve a more sophisticated voice. Yet, it gets the message across perfectly clear!
The weeds are blooming yellow in the fields and the corn that still remains has yellowed on top. Yellow is the color of this time of year. July rains gave way to August heat with no rain so the grasses are turning brown. Yellow and brown, shades of the Earth who is starting to reclaim that which has grown from her soil.
There are ripe wild grapes on the vine which only means the birds haven’t found them yet this morning. I wish I could wait here until they do, see who shows up first and how many birds partake of this bounty.
The green heron that has been lurking around the lake usually flies off with a squawk before I can get a photo, but just this once she flies towards me as if to say ok, you can take my picture today, thanks for your patience. She must know how much I love her.
I have to look closely this time of year. The birds aren’t as flashy as they were in the spring when everyone was playing the mating game. Some of summer’s colors are starting to fade, or drying out in the heat. The sunrise is still full of summer haze. Yet the treasures are there, waiting patiently for eyes to see them.
Fall is coming. Slowly. She is dropping hints and sneaking in. She shows up in a brief swath of morning color, on the wings of a ring-billed gull or the little pied-billed grebe bobbing up and down in the middle of the lake. She is coming, but as much as I am ready for fall there is no need to hurry. Life goes by all too fast as it is.
For now, I am content to pay attention as summer and fall weave their patterns together. In the words of Aerosmith: “I don't wanna close my eyes, I don't wanna fall asleep ‘cause I'd miss you baby and I don't wanna miss a thing”.
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