Now it’s high summer, the fig tree is full of huge leaves and small figs. At dinner time, light filters through the fig tree leaves, one leaf casting a shadow on another. Birds and deer are testing the figs, which are not ready yet. The fig tree reaches all the way to the ground, making leafy caves that children could play in.
So much to savor this July — starting with temperatures that make it a pleasure to be outdoors. Downward comparison seems to make that pleasure more intense. Today it is 76 degrees at 2PM, but I’m mindful that it could be 96 to 100 degrees, far too hot so sit outside with pleasure. When we are outside, there are so many interesting things to feel, see, hear, smell, and taste.
- Homemade peach ice cream. My husband makes ice cream at least once every summer from a well-thumbed book of recipes, many stained with use. He cranks it by hand with whatever help he can muster from children and friends.
- A deer drinking out of the bird bath. We’ve been visited several times by a young buck with two velvety spikes. There are weeds that the deer are welcome to eat, but when they start into the fragrance garden, we run them off. It’s easier said than done. They no longer run when we bang a stick against a garbage pan lid. When I run down towards them, I wonder what I’ll do if they don’t run!
- One bird sitting on a limb waiting for another bird to finish so it could have a turn in bird bath. The first bird splashing great arcs of water out of the bath, the second splashing itself much more daintily.
- A hummingbird dive bombing a swallowtail butterfly that tried to land on the Monarda over and over again until the butterfly gave up. We knew hummingbirds were territorial with each other, but is this the way to behave in a butterfly garden?
- The fragrance of magnolia blossoms and of gardenia blossoms that remind me of our wedding more than a quarter of a century ago
- The buddleia grown so tall that the blossoms are almost up to our level on the porch. On the 4th of July, we had an American flag butterfly garden with Monarda (red), Brazilian sage (blue), and Buddleia (white) all blooming at once.
- Four or five silver streak butterflies on the buddleia at a time, sharing it with bumblebees. Two flying off, fluttering together, landing almost in tandem. I wonder how butterflies mate?
- At night after it is dark, fireflies lighting up all around the yard and the almost deafening orchestra of evening bugs. I think they are cicadas. My mother once rode on a bus with a single cicada which sounded the same note over and over again. She found it rather tedious. The complexity and slow pulsing of the sound we hear comes from many many sounding together.
Just to reflect a little, my summer savoring is particularly piquant because of
- Fleeting wonders. Most can’t be captured in photographs because they disappear so quickly. Try taking a picture of a hummingbird chasing a butterfly! Or of a hummingbird doing anything but resting on the feeder. I am constantly aware that this pleasure will soon be gone. The monarda and magnolia are done for the year, and the gardenia are almost done.
- Downward comparison to other years, so much hotter and muggier. We’re having rain, which always seems like a miracle in July, and it’s keeping things green.
- Family traditions so that today’s pleasures carry echoes of past pleasures
- Family possibilities. When I see the green caves under the fig tree, I imagine children playing there. The tree was not big enough when my children were small, but maybe someday their children will enjoy hiding there.
I just had to add this picture of a Great Spangled Fritillary butterfly that spent several hours yesterday in the buddleia, flittering from one flower stalk to another. I was in the middle of a business call when I saw it out my window. I put my phone on hold and hollered at my husband, thinking he’d want to see something that large and tawny. He stalked it with the digital camera.
I have to close with the last magnolia blossom of the season.
All pictures courtesy of Edward Britton, a man of great patience and persistence who still still hasn’t been able to capture a hummingbird in the air.