Read Old Man Scanlon

August Waxes

09 August 2014

It is time for obligatory lugubrious small-talk about summer’s end. We marvel at how fast it’s gone, how it’s just slipped by, how low the sun is, but I don’t have the heart for it. August usually bludgeons us with infernal heat and humidity, but so far this year these are not the usual days we warn each other about in icy February, when we sheepishly admit that soon enough we’ll be whining about how hot it is. Though we may yet endure dog days, my senses have been delivered from the ever-present and crushing fear that my blood is going to boil. The flood of what they are now free to convey almost alarms me.

Gaudy stiff goldenrod supplants July’s ubiquitous roadside tiger lilies, reprising dandelions’ exuberant yellow. Native peaches debut at local orchards. I come perilously close to foreswearing animal flesh in favor of fruits and nuts, at least while the natives flourish. With the wind in the right quarter, I can breathe deep the intense perfume—spicy, undertones of decay—from sweet pepper bushes in the swamp behind my house. Based on my clothesline, fearless dragonfly escadrilles fly sorties against the dipteran menace. Opportunistic stray dragonflies, sometimes nibbling on a hapless bluebottle, alight on me with a rustle while I read and contemplate in my driveway beach chair, resisting my reflexive urge to swat first and ask questions later. My regret that sweat is not pooling on the asphalt is nominal. The evening stridulation of katydids has succeeded wood thrush song, an exchange some might hold in slight regard. Neither musical nor sophisticated to humans, the katydid’s call is yet potent and appropriate in this, its appointed season. By late dusk, silhouetted bats take over for the dragonflies, maneuvering like frenzied lunatic butterflies, and it pleases me to speculate what I might hear if ultrasound were audible.

Even without Floridian brutality, August is anything but subtle, more along the lines of port than pinot noir, and also more serious than Bacchanalian May. It’s as if the month needs to pack all it can into its diminishing days—an urgent robustness gains poignancy from the imminence of autumn’s die-back. Not least because the daisies have pushed themselves up without my assistance, I am grateful for the sturdy profusion of August.