Short summer’s journey into autumn

Eugene O’Neill is probably rolling in his grave with my reworking of the title of his classic play “Long Day’s Journey into Night”. The Twin Cities area shows signs of an early end to a late arriving summer. Grackle and starling flocks started forming a couple of weeks ago with mobs of hungry birds descending into yards and gardens. Some sumac bushes and maple trees have splotches of red or gold showing through the foliage. Juvenile robins display grown up feathers free of the leopard spots of their youth. Waterfowl babies are in full feathers and are the size of adults rather than waddling balls of fluff and fuzz. Hummingbirds are more frequent visitors at the feeders with an occasional quick and noisy kerfuffle breaking out. The migratory birds and butterflies are preparing for a several thousand mile trek to a place where “Snowmageddon” remains a folk tale rather than an annual six-month-long reality.

July and August have been drier and cooler than normal. Air conditioning units received a badly needed break from relentless usage in June. Road repair crews find it easier to work with hot asphalt when the heat index is not five degrees above the sun’s surface temperature and the roadways are not submerged. Cooler and drier air slowed grass growth. Mowing twice a month instead of twice a week allowed people to spend more time with loved ones and enjoy a quiet evening. Cool and dry evenings were a refreshing change to the stifling heat and oppressive humidity experienced during June’s monsoon.

With each passing day, morning and afternoon scurried a bit sooner from evening’s encroachment. Lower humidity and temperatures along with fewer severe storms directly result from this. Even though the weather this week has been more like mid-October rather than late August, the cicadas are still buzzing when the sun is out. At night, a few fireflies twinkle during their nightly journeys while the toads, tree frogs and crickets still have their evening talent shows without “sotto voce” subtlety. Listening to the cacophony without droning air conditioners is quite enjoyable.

Perhaps the late arrival of summer along with the cooler and dryer  period after June curtailed the annual Japanese beetle infestation. My rose bushes did not look like shotgun targets and there was no need to set out traps. I think I saw fewer than two dozen of the nasty little invaders this year. I will gladly take this as a win. This also ensured getting flowering red calla lilies, which the hummingbirds pay more attention to than the hummingbird feeder.

As I mentioned last week, the Minnesota State Fair is still underway. The last time I attended the Fair was around 2006 with Lucy. I have a friend who is insisting on taking me to the Fair on Saturday (OK, my arm did not need much twisting). If Saturday’s almost perfect weather forecast is accurate, and if attendance is typical for the second Saturday of the Fair, between 175,000 and 240,000 people will crowd into the Fairgrounds. The Fairgrounds itself is only 320 acres in size (one-half square mile or one-half section) so navigating through a sea of humanity is challenging. Saturday’s visit will take care of my Fair adventures until the mid-2020’s and blow my allotted junk food intake until 2375.

The State Fair ends on September 1, Labor Day. The United States considers Labor Day as the unofficial end to summer though the autumnal equinox does not occur until September 22. Families with cabins “up north” or “at the lake” enjoy on last long weekend and close it for the season. School is already in session in some districts with the remainder starting classes after Labor Day. The plaintive parental cry of “Go outside and play!” changes to “Do your homework!” Even humans adjust to the subtle season transition.

Try to enjoy some time outdoors with loved ones. Whether your transition is summer into autumn or winter into spring, notice the changes occurring. Being part of nature helps one re-energize and reduce stress. Give your special someone a meaningful hug and thank you for your time.

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