Summer flying by… on untested wings

July 5, 2008

"Let me tell you 'bout the birds and the bees and the flowers in the trees And the moon up above… and a thing called love."

May was dry. The perfumed blossoms of apple, pear, cherry, lilac, crab apple attracted winged visitors to our orchard: the birds and the bees. Spring was a season unto itself teaming with bumblebees and colorful songbirds drawn to those orchard blossoms to feed on nectar and to glean myriad insects in the flowers. Colors and scents of flowers and the wind-tossed flurries of white petals drifting over the pasture was pure joy; a romantic and short-lived season after the long winter… springtime is like falling in love.

Pollination now over, the flowers have faded. Now marble-sized green apples and tiny acorns are swelling along branches. The romantic infatuation of the new relationship is maturing – there's work to be done raising a family or preparing for lean times ahead.

It rained all June. Leaves unfurled and the birds grew quiet and secretive while nesting and brooding vulnerable chicks. As nesting winds down, fledgling songbirds appear, wobbling on untested wings and stubby little tail feathers and flying nearly upside down like Woodstock. These aerial amateurs will need to fly solo to winter in Mexico and the Caribbean in just a few short months.

Growing up

Summer growth is serious business. Youth is ever-fleeting. Newborns must grow fast, time is short. Tiny bleating fawns born in June will soon lose their spots. Already they dash-away through the woods behind a startled doe. All new wildlife – the young of the year – are growing rapidly into adolescence as the days grow shorter. Plants too must "make hay while the sun shines." Summer flies – the season of youthful innocence is fleeting. Winter, already a whispered rumor.

Summer Solstice now past, dour Yankee friends play "ant" to my "grasshopper" by working long days outdoors while they can. Summer isn't just for Fenway, fireworks, the beach or the lake. There's a subtle seriousness taking hold by mid-July. Realists will note by the Fourth of July how the sun now rises a minute later or sets a minute early every other day. The days grow shorter and winter is on the way.

From the mature perspective of sometimes wistful middle age, that simple truth – evident in both woods and fields – seems more a treason, a whispered curse so early in this youthful summer love affair.