Wednesday, September 29, 2004

Long-sleeve Day

Well, mark your calendars. It's here. The first morning that I picked a long-sleeve shirt to wear. That must mean that the season of autumn will actually happen this year. (Me and Puxatawney Phil hang together sometimes and predict stuff just for the fun of it.)

Sure enough, when I take Clementine out to attend to morning business, it feels different. It's not just that delightful crispness in the air, it's the lack of noise. Beginning almost exactly on Mother's Day here where the corn grows, creation puts out the "Open for Business" sign and immediately starts advertising loudly. Crickets, jays, frogs, robins, squirrels, martins, owls, cats, and things that I have never been able to identify set up a racket to let you know it's TIME. "Here I am. Let's go! Got to have a family NOW!" I think the shorter growing season in the Midwest makes nature seem almost panicky in the months without an 'r' in them.

So in late August and early September, everything begins to look a little peaked. The corn, which this year shot up well past the 'knee-high by the fourth of July' rule (owing to growing conditions which even the taciturn farmers had to admit were ideal), has gotten worn-out looking and now it has gone to the crackly brown that only the farmers love. Birds give it a rest, and the evening choruses are made up of the deafening mechanical sound of the cicadas.

But now even the cicadas are dying out. (Clementine found a nearly spent one in the yard a week ago and showed off her hunting prowess by boring it to death.) The fever-pitch has melted into the need for a nap and awakened from that into watchfulness. The pair of red fox squirrels in the big maple tree don't chitter at Clementine anymore -- whatever family they managed is off on their own and doesn't need protection. The smaller one still chases the bigger one around the trunk once or twice, but it's just the nostalgic gamboling of an old married couple, nothing like her scandalous tartiness when the leaves were first emerging.

The next stop for straining ears is when you start hearing the steady cadence of migrating geese. But that'll be another post. For now the weather is gorgeous, the dog is sleepy, and my long-sleeve shirt will do the job until it's time for sweaters.


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