The very top of summer

The first week of August hangs at the very top of summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless . . . ~Natalie Babbitt

It is a cool quiet morning as Angel and I go out into the garden. Last night’s raucous frog chorus has faded with the light and the cicadas won’t begin their drowsy drone until the air warms. It feels as if time has stopped, with only the occasional bird song to remind me that I am awake in this beautiful world, the essence of late summer.

The garden has suddenly become voluptuous with the buxom blooms of Hydrangea paniculata ‘Limelight’ and tall summer phlox (Phlox paniculata).

August creates as she slumbers, replete and satisfied. ~Joseph Wood Crutch 

The composite flowers of Echinacea, Rudbeckia, and shasta daisies (Leucanthemumsuperbum) are running riot through the garden.

late summer steps

I resist the urge to pluck their petals to the chant of “he loves me, he loves me not” and instead admire their cheerful faces so beloved by bees and butterflies.

I saw a monarch butterfly the other day, the first I’ve seen in two years, although it proved to be camera shy. Winged pollinators of all sorts have been busy in the garden.

A few weeks ago, I spied this huge creature on a daylily stem, with a wing span larger than my hand, the Polyphemus moth (Antheraea polyphemus).  A denizen of deciduous forests, it only lives a few days as an adult, just long enough to lay eggs and complete its life cycle. When I shared the photo with my friend Edwin, he exclaimed “In 4-H etymology projects this was the grand prize!” Polyphemus moth

I almost wish we were butterflies and liv’d but three summer days – three such days with you I could fill with more delight than fifty common years could ever contain. ~Keats

While creatures were flying, trees were falling. A high wind twisted and ripped a tall red oak tree from the base of its trunk in our front woods, splaying it across the road. A friendly neighbor driving by helped us cut the top branches and clear the road until the tree company could remove the rest. Fortunately, only a few fence rails were damaged.

A few days later, I heard a terrible cracking sound through my window at 4 A.M., followed by a series of snaps. I’ve heard a tree fall before and I braced myself for the crash into our house but fortunately, I heard only a solid thud in the distance. At first light, I found our neighbor’s huge oak had cracked near the base and fallen into the woods, taking two smaller oaks with it. I’m hoping the mulberry tree won’t suffer permanent damage, as it now has an oak leaning into it until the tree surgeons do their work later this week.

treefall2

fallenoak

Last night, I walked through the garden at dusk to the sound of evening birdsong and the thrum of tree frogs courting.  The hilltop that looked so cheerful in daylight hilltop

became dreamy and mysterious in the evening light. eveninggarden

There is nothing I like better at the end of a hot summer’s day than taking a short walk around the garden. You can smell the heat coming up from the earth to meet the cooler night air. ~Peter Mayle 

May you enjoy every moment of the very top of summer before the Ferris wheel resumes its downward plunge into fall.