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.
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.
The first goldenrod bursts into bloom.
Rattlesnake master seedheads glow pale and prickly. The fragrance of prairie dropseed permeates the air. Mmmmmm. Smells like buttered popcorn.
Prairie dock punches its flower bud fists into the sky, 12 feet high. All the plants on the prairie shout — “make seeds!”
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.
Dusk begins to fall. The hummingbird moths blur their way through lush stands of bee balm, fueling up for the night.
The first big bluestem seedheads unfurl, turkey-footed against the sunset.
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.
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.
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.)