Farewell to a Summer Love

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August afternoons resemble the blazing passion of new love: intense and torrid. August evenings are the antithesis: gentle and serene. They are a mature experience that is like a long, tender embrace.

On August walks I avoid the blistering, high-​sky sun of midday and seek shelter in shaded, cool, stream-​cut ravines. The forest umbrella blocks the sweltering sun.

In shade, I hide and wait. Wait for the earth to turn away from the furnace. As afternoon ages, white-​hot light ebbs to pink, then orange, then red, and finally the fiery conflagration of the mid-​day is quenched to a warm evening ember glow.

The first changes of sky hue are my signal to emerge from tall-​tree shelter and find a new but shorter forest of grass and wildflowers. The aged meadows of old, ridge-​top farms are a favorite place to enjoy one of the exquisite times of summer: an August evening.

On a high forb-​and grass-​blanketed knoll at the top of Laurel Ridge, I can watch the dying sun fall into the dark edge of Chestnut Ridge to the west. Just before the descent, gold light gently strokes the heads of timothy, rye and bluestem while it moves leisurely in the evening breeze. Gaudy yellow black-​eyed-​Susans, sunflowers and evening primrose embrace the grasses, all entwined in a sensuous dance celebrating douceur de vivre.

I am also in the evening embrace, back pressed to the warm ground, eyes intent on the sky canopy as it swings through the spectrum until all color is finally gone.

A cacophony of insect sound comes from all directions. Chirps, chips, twitters and squeaks never quite harmonize but are a soothing part of the venue all the same.

Fireflies have no voice but instead flicker a yellow-​green light over the nearly dark meadow. First there are a few flashes. Here. Then there. Then to the side, and finally, many blinking above the spires of grass.

Farther above, the first stars add their own twinkle as the sun no longer dominates their temperate light. I recall individual star names: Altair, Albireo the double, Markab. Then as their fainter companions appear I quietly recite the summer celestial menagerie… Aquila, Cygnus, Pegasus… the eagle, the swan, the winged horse.

Finally the absolute majesty of a dark night sky with a billion points of light from horizon to horizon moves my mind from recitation and knowing to mental quiet and visual delight.

A few more moments in the afterglow of the meadow and I reluctantly get back on my feet and leave the amorous embrace of my evening meadow love.

Paul G. Wiegman

Paul is a photographer, writer and naturalist. Trained as a botanist, he has been active in conservation for 40 years. His photography has appeared in publications, including The New York Times, National Geographic and Time-​Life and Readers Digest Books.

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