A Corner Turned

Have you heard them? Listen. The crickets sing a rhythmic “shhh—shhh–shhh–shhh” like an oscillating yard sprinkler. Cicadas tune up.

Summer hears the sounds and begins to exhale.  July ends with a blue moon; the traditional name for the rare second full moon in a single month. August opens hot and stormy.

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The prairie — responding to temperature, the slant of light, a million unseen signals it has tuned into since the dawn of time —begins to count down the days toward autumn. Urgently, it pumps out surges of color: yellows, purples, whites.

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The first goldenrod bursts into bloom.

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Rattlesnake master seedheads glow pale and prickly. The fragrance of prairie dropseed permeates the air. Mmmmmm. Smells like buttered popcorn.

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Prairie dock punches its flower bud fists into the sky, 12 feet high. All the plants on the prairie shout — “make seeds!”

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Compass plant sap drips in the daytime heat, then crystalizes in the cool  August evenings. Native American children chewed the sap like Wrigley’s Spearmint gum.

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Dusk begins to fall. The hummingbird moths blur their way through lush stands of bee balm, fueling up for the night.

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The first big bluestem seedheads unfurl, turkey-footed against the sunset.

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Turn the corner into the savanna and admire the Joe Pye weed, Queen Anne’s lace, and woodland sunflowers as they spread their tall carpet under the oaks.

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The grasses and trees become a little pixelled, a little grainy as the sun drops over the horizon. The cool breath of twilight rises up from the trail to meet you. Somewhere, a seasonal switch is flipped. A corner turned.

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Summer, we’re not ready to let you go.

Please. Stay a little longer.

(All photos by Cindy Crosby. Top to bottom: Full “blue” moon, Glen Ellyn, IL; James “Pate” Philip State Park Prairie, Bartlett, IL; stiff goldenrod (Solidago rigida), Schulenberg Prairie at The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; rattlesnake master, (Eryngium yuccifolium) SP; prairie dock (Silphium terebinthinaceum) SP;  compass plant sap (Silphium laciniatum), SP; hummingbird month on bee balm (Monarda fistulosa), SP; big bluestem (Andropogon gerardii) , SP; oak savanna, SP; oak savanna trail, SP.)

One response to “A Corner Turned

  1. Now you’re answering my questions before I ask them! I saw a hummingbird moth on Saturday (I thought it was a hummingbird for just a second) and was going to ask you what it was. You’re a great teacher, Cindy!

    Like

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