The signs of coming change are emerging, even though August’s muggy heat still hangs thickly, like a shimmering curtain, right outside every door and window. We linger at the windows, admiring the landscape and watching for hummingbirds and rabbits, butterflies and the occasional skink, to come into view.
The rabbits sometimes appear at dusk, grazing on tasty wildflowers in the lawn. They notice us if we pause too long or call out to one another to come and see them. The hummingbirds feel our gaze, too. They quickly dart away if we startle them. But if we stand very quietly, mostly hidden by the drawn window shades, they will feed from flower to flower from the pots on the porch, allowing us to enjoy their presence.
The butterflies don’t mind us admiring them from the windows, and show courage even when I appear nearby, camera in hand. Like the bees, they work methodically, flower to flower to flower as they gather their daily fuel to fly. When they have had enough of my stalking and clicking, they lift gently into the air and seek other flowers, elsewhere.
We’ve been happy to observe them in greater numbers, finally, and to spot more species than we have earlier in the season. I’ve been examining the fennel and parsley for weeks now, hoping to spot a butterfly egg or tiny cat. It was only when I friend stopped by on Wednesday that she found a crop of cats in the upper garden. Her instincts for all things butterfly are honed finely enough that she can see these things I so often miss. So, we cut away the branch of fennel where they were feeding, and she took it home to raise the cats on organic parsley. I know she will keep them safe until they emerge in a few weeks as adult butterflies.
We have been waking before sunrise to muggy, hot mornings. We have a few short hours to do whatever must be done out of doors before the sun rises above the trees and temperatures soar for another day. The forecasted ‘break’ in the weather gets systematically postponed day by day, but it is close enough now to almost smell it. Rain is coming, and with it the subtle changes of shorter days and cooler breezes that signal relief to our summer weary garden.
Our upper garden has turned golden already, with drifts of Black-eyed Susans coming into bloom all at once. Tall spires of Solidago will bloom bright yellow any day now, and periwinkle mist flowers and pink obedient plant will shoot up through the mix.
Buds are swelling on the Hedychium coronarium, butterfly ginger lilies, that tower over the hurricane lilies. And a single swelling bud has appeared on the moonflower vine I started weeks ago from a packet of old seed lying in a drawer. Of the half dozen seeds, at least one vine has grown large enough to bloom.
Just as winter melts into spring, bringing relief from the cold; so summer also eventually melts into autumn, a second season of hope and growth rewarding our perseverance. Many plants that took their time slowly growing and developing these past few months are almost ready for their annual show. Fruits are ripening. We crunch the husks of hazelnuts underfoot, dropped by feeding squirrels.
The Muscadine grapes I planted years ago from a few seeds have covered themselves in fruits this summer. Now they ripen, slowly, swelling and turning deep burgundy as they sweeten. I’ve harvested a handful, but the squirrels have found them, too. They don’t crave their sweetness so much as their moisture, and so make off with unripe fruits while we hide indoors in the coolness.
We’re harvesting figs this week, too. And even better, cuttings I layered in July and early August are rooting in situ. I harvested the first one yesterday, and will cut more rooted cuttings from the tree next week. I’m taking cuttings now from this tree that has grown from a cutting I stuck directly into the ground here years ago. Our fig tree had been damaged in a storm, and I took cuttings from a broken branch. That twig has grown into a fruitful tree. And these rooted twigs will be passed on to friends once the weather cools and the season is right for planting again.
Change is good. As we move through the seasons of the year, we also move through the seasons of our lives. We plan, we plant, we enjoy, we harvest, we move on; isn’t it so? We pass through all stages of the cycle, again and again. We learn from all of the challenges and pleasures along the way. There should be no regret or fear in moving on; only gratitude for the opportunities we have enjoyed.
There is always something new on the horizon, and some almost forgotten pleasure to anticipate. The secret to living well is to savor each moment of ‘Now;’ and to find the beauty and the opportunities in all things.