“August rain: the best of the summer gone, and the new fall not yet born. The odd uneven time.” –Sylvia Plath
Indian grass plumes out, announcing autumn’s imminent arrival on the prairie. August is trickling away.
Hey –not so fast, summer! It seems like you just got here.
My hand-dug, mud hole of a backyard prairie pond evaporates quickly in our hot, sweltering days. The rain barrel is dry; precipitation a distant memory. Each evening, I turn the hose on for 20 minutes and bring the pond back to its original level. The wetland wildflowers on the pond’s banks sink their toes into the moist soil. Ahhhh. Much better!
As I fill the pond, I hear Plop! Plop! Plop! A swirl of duckweed. Four frogs look up at me.
Where did you guys come from? We’re a long way from any major water source. Mallard ducks flap in from time to time to enjoy a dip in the pond. Did the frog eggs come in on a duck’s webbed foot? It’s a mystery.
But the best kind of mystery, when something exciting that you didn’t expect turns up to delight you. Water often brings about surprises like this. Like when the blue lobelia, that breath-taking wetland wildflower, comes into bloom seemingly overnight.
Or, dragonflies and damselflies, which emerge from streams and ponds and surprise us with their comic expressions….
…or cause us to marvel at their color…
…or astonish us with their balance and grace.
This month, after the extreme mosquito activity of June and July, I tried something new in my little pond: a solar water bubbler, which is “guaranteed to reduce the mosquito populations to 10x less their original state” according to the packaging. Mosquito marketing aside, the bubbler sends up a consistent splash of water as long as the sun is shining. Which this August, hasn’t been a problem. The water feature is a fun addition to the pond.
The frogs think so, too. Early in the morning, I often find a frog sunning herself on the solar collector, letting the water gently bubble over her. Something that wasn’t promoted in the marketing materials, but maybe should have been.
The crackling dry days of August give me a new appreciation for water and all it brings. Late one evening this week, as I top off the water in the pond, I hear the frenzied concert of the cicadas crescendo to a deafening level. Thunder rumbles. Lightning flashes.
At last! Let it rain!
And it does. Bringing with it a cool breath of air, the refreshment of grasses and wildflowers, the filling of my pond without me wielding my hose…
…and the promise of a new season ahead.
A tumultuous and welcome end to the dog days of August.
The “dog days of summer” are reference to the hottest, most humid days of the year. The actual reference to “dog days” refers to Sirius, the dog star, which rises before the sun in late July. Sylvia Plath, whose quote about August kicks off this blogpost, was a talented and troubled poet. Says The Poetry Foundation about Plath: “Intensely autobiographical, Plath’s poems explore her own mental anguish, her troubled marriage to fellow poet Ted Hughes, her unresolved conflicts with her parents, and her own vision of herself. ” She writes some powerful poetry about the natural world. Try “The Moon and the Yew Tree.”
All photographs and video copyright Cindy Crosby: (top to bottom) Indian grass (Sorghastrum nutans), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; August wildflowers by author’s backyard prairie pond, Glen Ellyn, IL; frog (Lithobates catesbeianus) resting in author’s backyard prairie pond, Glen Ellyn, IL; blue lobelia (Lobelia siphilitica), author’s backyard pond, Glen Ellyn, IL; eastern pondhawk (Erythemis simplicicollis), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; familiar bluet damselfly (Enallagma civile), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; male calico pennant dragonfly (Celithemis elisa), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL; frog (Lithobates catesbeianus) on the water bubbler, author’s backyard prairie pond, Glen Ellyn, IL: video of a mid-August thunderstorm, author’s suburban backyard prairie patch, Glen Ellyn, IL; biennial gaura (Guara biennis), Schulenberg Prairie, The Morton Arboretum, Lisle, IL.