Thursday, August 25, 2011
The Saddest Day of Summer
From the first of August on, when the heat begins to pall, I begin to long for signs of autumn. The ironweed begins to bud, and dry spells leave leaf litter along the roads. Darkness comes earlier and earlier. And I begin to find dead cicadas- our out-sized Tennessee summer cicadas. The one in the photo was already being eaten from the inside out by dust sized brown ants which fled all over my hand when I picked the cicada up.
These are welcome signs of fall, but there is another passage not so welcome. Two days ago, as evening came on I heard an absence. The sky above my apartment and its parking sheds was empty of swallows. They had gone. They came April 7th. At 4pm there were none. At 6pm I heard their chittering cries. I watched them return to their nests under the eaves of the parking sheds. I saw them mob the bluejay who tried to steal their eggs. They have gracefully dipped and soared their way through the sub-tropical Tennessee evenings.
It is still hot. There are millions of flying bugs still ripe for eating. Frost is two months away. I do not understand why the swallows must leave so early. But they do not live by our calendar. They join the barn swallows who leave the flaming swamp maples of New England. All must go. All over the world. In great flights to Africa and Natal and South America. Their instinct is to leave. Ours is to stay. And if we, in this provsional life, are fortunate to see another spring, we will meet them again in April.