Poor Will’s Almanack for the first week of late summer.
Each piece of Middle Summer is connected to some other piece, forming a web of what author Rebecca Solnit has called local truths.
As late summer begins, all the katydids are singing. They call out the close of the Dog Days, and even though the heat often lingers, the rhythm of the season has shifted, its tones have been altered, colors and sounds and scents all pointing to fall.
Now, almost everywhere in the country, average temperatures start to drop a degree and a half every seven days until the middle of September, at which point they decline about one degree every three days into January. Migration clucking among the robins increases. Some days, there will be a long and steady cardinal song before sunrise, then silence. Hummingbirds, wood ducks, Baltimore orioles and purple martins start to disappear south.
When katydids call at dusk, cottonwoods are yellowing. Black walnut foliage is thinning, foretaste of the great leafdrop to come. Locust leaves turn brown, damaged by leaf miners. Violet Joe Pye weed grays like thistledown. The prickly teasel dies back. Fruit of the bittersweet ripens. Spicebush berries redden. Tall goldenrod is heading up. Rose pinks and great blue lobelia color the waysides. In the thunderstorms of late summer, green acorns fall to the sweet rocket growing back among the budding asters.
This is the time that all the spiders in the woods weave their final webs and fireflies complete their cycle. More local truths, Monarch butterflies, become more common in their passage to Mexico, and another generation of cabbage moths, swallowtails and skippers emerges. Sometimes giant imperial moths appear at porch lights. Autumn’s yellow jackets come to the fallen apples and plums.
This is Bill Felker with Poor Will’s Almanack. I’ll be back again next week with notes for the second week of late summer. In the meantime, watch for local truth: it's right in front of you.