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Summer

A mockingbird is stationed at the tiptop of a giant pine in the gray light of predawn. His renditions come out in this order: cardinal, Chuck-wills-widow, summer tanager, thrasher, and then pieces of other broken melodies mixed with various warbles and flutes. A towhee joins him in song from across the neighbor’s horse meadow. Chickadees and nuthatches chime in gently.

A whitetail doe nibbles at trumpet vines, a fresh fawn by her side, as I sip honey-sweetened coffee and the sun’s rays strengthen by the second. Tangles of morning glory have produced one early flower and a fat bumbling bee explores its lavender petals before venturing further in. The sweet and spicy smell of bergamot mingles with the black-licorice scent of hyssops as bees converge on both. It was my nose that brought me to the flowerbed, too.

Fence lizards aren’t moving yet, but a tiny, shiny brown skink soaks in the early light before scurrying into leaf litter still decomposing from last fall. A roadrunner clacks and coos from the underbrush. Fish crows flap their way to the lake, their nasal caws surely discussing plans for a day near the water. I’m envious.

Morning morphs into midday as the sun chases away some of the humidity, but only some. It’s still muggy and now it’s hot and that makes everything lazy. Grasshoppers buzz and hum from the high grass in lackadaisical tones. A gray squirrel sprawls on a post oak branch as warm breezes rustle the leaves in their midsummer green.

I venture out into the rays to feel summer on my skin. It brings back memories of a time when I didn't know or care about heat indices. My folks didn’t have air conditioning so even during the most brutal summer days of my childhood, a shaded porch and popsicle was the best I could hope for. I don’t recall feeling at all deprived. But I’m older and softer now, tenderized by three decades of climate control. After just minutes, the cool shadows of my office beckon irresistibly. The mockingbird clicks and buzzes with no enthusiasm from his shaded vantage point on a post in the garden. I turn to the door.

Back outside as the sun slides westward, slanting late afternoon light illuminates the black-eyed Susans along my neighbor’s ditch. I smile with some pride. Those flowers left standing make me think that my yard, splotched with its wild patches here and there, has had some influence.

Summer’s sundown symphony— cicadas, crickets, katydids, tree frogs — builds inversely to the fading light. Chartreuse blinks and winks fill the early twilight of my shaded backyard. Blue jays and indigo buntings make a last run at the bird feeder before darkness sends them to roost.

Near midnight, pale silver moonlight falls on the mockingbird back in the pine. His night song fills the air as summer settles easily over the valley.

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