The 237th Day of the Year
The Earth’s changing relationship to the Sun quietly turns the color of the landscape, creating intervals of time out of matter, sequence from leaves and flowers.
Day’s Length: 13 hours 22 minutes
Average High/Low: 82/61
Average Temperature: 72
Record High: 99 – 1903
Record Low: 48 – 1891
As the third major cool front of the month moves east, the period between August 25th and August 27th often brings a return of warmer temperatures. Chances of highs in the 90s double over yesterday’s chances, rise from 15 percent to 30 percent. Warm 80s come 60 percent of the afternoons, with cooler 70s only occurring ten percent of the time. Showers pass through Yellow Springs around three years in ten, but the sun shines most of the day. (This is historically one of the clearest days in August.) Half the nights provide pleasant sleeping in the 50s.
Judas trees betray the Christ of summer, patches of gold showing on the Osage and cottonwoods and poplars and maples, kisses of scarlet on creeper and poison ivy. Panicled dogwood has its first white berries. Dogbane pods have grown to ten inches now and a few are turning red. Wood nettle, tall nettle and small-flowered agrimony have gone to black seeds. Buckeye leaves are browning, walnut trees weathering and shedding. Redbuds and burning bush are blushing. Mint has reached the close of its cycle, teasel is complete, and coneflowers are fading.
The house-shaped star group, Cepheus, has moved into the middle of the sky by midnight, marking the start of Early Fall. To the east of Cepheus, find the zigzag formation of Cassiopeia, followed by Perseus (looking vaguely like a horse) rising in the northeast. The Big Dipper continues to hug the northern horizon throughout the night.
1983: Bees everywhere through South Glen, sometimes five or six on a single golden wingstem plant. Yellow leafcup, ironweed, tall coneflower, field thistle, white snakeroot, touch-me-not, great blue lobelia full bloom still. Fog fruit discovered. Goldenrod flushed but not open yet. Brown brome grass and parsnips, hops done blooming. Jumpseed mostly gone to seed, wood nettle drooping, Joe Pye weed graying, ragweed heavy with pollen, oxeye fading. Everything I notice is a sign of September.
1984: Geese restless, flying near 6:00 this morning. First beggarticks bloomed today.
1985: Honeysuckle berries have turned dark orange in the last week or so.
1986: Grinnell swamp: Blue lobelias still full. Goldenrod has just started here and out toward South Glen. Tick trefoil burs stick to my pants, one more autumn step.
1987: On a rainy afternoon, 65 degrees, the crickets were subdued, bees hiding in their hives, cardinals silent. The weathering of the leaves was accentuated by the drizzle and gray sky, Judas maples seemed brighter. A few buckeyes had split their shells in the night.
1988: Maples in the yard are still completely green. The drought has not accelerated fall coloring yet.
1990: Cardinals quiet most of the day. Buckeye leaves turning very quickly now. Field thistles are in full bloom, have been for a week or so. Goldenrod is flushed but none seen completely open around Yellow Springs. Late August fogs arriving, humidity higher, making morning temperatures seem sharper or more dense. The basil smell of Late Summer so strong this year.
1992: Across the county, cottonwoods, ash, maple are turning, patches of yellow and red, rusting, fading. Branches of honey locusts bright gold. At my office window, the small ash tree, which is always the first tree to lose its leaves, is maybe a fifth gone and deteriorating quickly. It will be bare in a couple of weeks.
1993: Showy coneflowers dying back more quickly, another dozen or so wilted over night. First yellow jacket seen today. They are probably late because the past six weeks have been so dry. Gilbert White notes the connection between hornets and rain in his 18th-century journal.
1999: The red sedum has been opening for several days now. Russian sage still strong in the yard and around town. The ironweed and the butterfly bush hold on, solid purple additions to the north garden – but we need dozens more for late August. Heliopsis is going quickly, phlox is almost gone, and flax has disappeared. In the pond, the pickerel plant has a last flower, the purple loosestrife has come to the end of its spikes. Arrowhead is still open, but most of the stalks are leaning over to seed into the water. Showy coneflowers are two-thirds wilted. On the picnic table, the winter tomato plants in their pots look strong, some of them almost a foot high. Beside them, the honeysuckle berries are turning orange. One firefly seen after dark.
2000: Rumination on my inventories: Grounding in just what lies around me, learning to accept home, the solitude of landscape, finding enough in the most simple observations, embracing the ordinary and expecting nothing more, accepting this particular passage of time, salvation in the commonplace, the measurement of the dragon fly, the measurement of the goldenrod, asking nothing more than these plain acts, allowing, opening, watching the finite visions that contain no transcendence or special compensation, considering the precision of each fragment that names the exact place of Earth’s orbit and my exact place within it.
2001: Crickets strong at 5:00 this morning, then fade with dawn. Blue jay at 5:36. Cardinal and crows at 5:37. Chatter of a wren, one call only at 5:47. Doves at 5:57. After that, only sporadic singing. Fireflies are completely gone now.
2002: At 4:30 this morning, only crickets. By 5:20, the crickets fading and then cardinals beginning. Throughout the Yellow Springs gardens, rapid decline of late spring perennials: ironweed half gone, only remnants of phlox, heliopsis, butterfly bush. The dying maple in front of the house is a third turned already. Several monarchs seen today, and a pearl-crescent skipper, a European skipper, and fiery skipper. At South Glen, the first goldenrod is starting.
2003: To southeastern Ohio: Joe Pye still full, goldenrod starting, Jerusalem artichokes seen, wingstem, ironweed, jewelweed bright. Many cottonwoods beginning to yellow, many black walnuts almost bare. Probably a dozen monarchs seen on the drive. At home near suppertime, I found one more monarch in the ironweed and another in the butterfly bush. Greg came across three “hickory horned devils,” caterpillars of the Citheronia regalis moth, when he was working in Xenia.
2005: To central Ohio, Amish country: The fields and hills were deep green throughout the drive. A number of cornfields showed stress from the scarcity of rain, but the soybeans were strong, and most corn seemed in at least fair condition. Wingstem was the dominant flowering plant throughout, with sundrops, ironweed, Joe Pye weed common. Some goldenrod was blooming, but most was only flushed. No monarchs seen. At home, virgin’s bower is fully budded, Japanese knotweed in bloom, stonecrop just starting to show pink.
2006: Stonecrop opened on the 24th. Screech owl this morning at 4:30, called for a few minutes, then silence. Katydids stopped by 3:00 a.m.
2008: Only faint cardinal calls in the distance this morning about 5:40. But a flock of geese flew over the house around 7:00 – the first time I have heard morning geese in a while. In the alley, more apples are falling. In Beavercreek, I noticed a red maple turning and several ashes turning gold. On the way to Xenia, false boneset is in full bloom, goldenrod flushed but only a few plants opening. I weeded along the north side of the house, and I cut back hosta stalks and rusted ferns. In the south garden, I dug up the purple loosestrife and placed it near the peach trees (peaches turning now, but still very hard – although the Pennsylvania peaches we bought last week at the farmers’ market were perfect. As I was walking Bella this evening, a small skunk crossed Dayton Street in front of us.
Reading over past entries, I can see that such a complete transformation has taken place in August. It is the kind of change that I sometimes tend to ignore because of the heat and the days that are still quite long. There are still enough flowers in bloom to distract from the flowers that are gone. The high canopy remains deep green, betrayed only slightly by the red maples, the cottonwoods and black walnuts.
2009: Mateo’s goldenrod starting to open.
2010: Robins faintly at 5:16, cardinal at 5:21, no crows heard this morning. To the Athens, Ohio area in the afternoon: short goldenrod, Joe Pye weed, field thistles in full bloom (Joe Pye weed to seed at home for at least ten days). Many cornfields brown. Two small flocks of starlings seen.
2011: Cardinal at 5:35 a.m., then quiet. To Hocking Hills in southeastern Ohio: Lots of Joe Pye seen along the way. The crops were strong throughout the ride, the soybeans especially, fields of deep forest-green beans, the leaves turned up like whitecaps in the southwest wind. Goldenrod started coming in as we approached the foothill country past Chillicothe. At the park, bouncing bets, tansy, Queen Anne’s lace, chicory, wingstem, ironweed, jewel weed, jump seed (not jumping), milkweed all to pods, purple knapweed all around the campground. At Rose Lake, many large dragonflies with powder-blue tipped wings. Occasional tiger swallowtails seen, and many dark swallowtails crossing the road, probably spicebush swallowtails. Only one monarch seen on the trip.
2012: Jeanie heard the ominous call of the screech owl this morning (her birthday morning) about 3:00. Only trigs or tree crickets calling when I went out at 5:20. Cardinal at 5:35 a.m., almost at the same time as the crows. Several monarchs, many hummingbird moths, a giant swallowtail, a polydamas swallowtail, a spicebush swallowtail, a red admiral, and many yellow tiger swallowtails, along with cabbage whites, a brown, and a sulphur in the zinnias and butterfly bush within about two hours time this morning. Finches, still very gold, at the feeders all day. First tall goldenrod seen in bloom at DeWine’s pond, no others open throughout the local countryside. Sunflower fields around town still in full bloom.
2013: Walking Bella at 5:30 this morning, clear and cool: distant cardinals and then crows. No doves calling. Strong thrips and some field crickets, no whistling crickets or katydids. A monarch and a sulphur in the zinnias when I came back from church. Now the heliopsis is all gone, the phlox with only scattered blooms.
On the walking meditation this afternoon, low goldenrod was flowering in under the canopy, and white snakeroot was in very early bloom. Buds had formed on the zigzag goldenrod. Leaves trickled down, and the path seemed louder, with a few leaves now crisp underfoot. The upper foliage of one maple had turned. In town, Tim’s black walnut tree was totally bare. Sunset at Ellis Pond: arrowhead and jewelweed in full bloom.
2014: The orb-weaver is back, its web covering the top half of the shed door. When she saw me coming, she retreated up into the shed. One male tiger and one giant swallowtail seen during brief outings in the yard. The first two gladioli I planted so late are blooming by the pond.
2015: Cool and clear: Cardinal at 5:24 a.m., crows at 5:30.
2016: One ragged black swallowtail at the zinnias, many silver-spotted skippers – up to five at a time in the tithonias, some mating, many cabbage whites fluttering in and out of randori. Boneset fading across from the Covered Bridge. Inventory in the honeysuckle and locust tangles of South Glen: late but prominent wingstem and ironweed along the river and lining the paths, drifts of tall coneflowers not far from my old fishing hole, full blooming leafcup, one Deptford pink, one field thistle, most wood nettle all gone to seed, the very first tall goldenrod coming into bloom, a blue lobelia, a few tall bell flowers, budded white snakeroot, common ragweed to seed, all the milkweed I used to see near the old barn now covered with goldenrod ready to open, the ground being taken over by smartweed. A great spangled fritillary seen and one bedraggled black swallowtail – almost gray. One side of my pants legs full of small burrs.
2017: Another bright, cool day: one monarch, one male tiger swallowtail, one small black swallowtail. Goldenrod is almost blooming at Jill’s. A few more spiderworts come open; I should cut them back quite early past their best. In the woods, at the high path, some lobelias, some snakeroot, some bell flowers, a last agrimony, very still. A huge patch of great ragweed in Clifton: all of its pollen seeming to be gone. Hurricane Harvey, Category 4, strikes the Texas coast this evening, the first landfall hurricane of the season.
2018: Mild and a little muggy this morning. When Jill and I went outside at 5:35, a cardinal was singing, and he continued until the crows came in at 5:55, and then I heard a dove at 6:00, and then a chickadee. The high static of tree crickets remained constant through the night into the day, and I heard field crickets throughout our walk at sunrise. Katydids started at 8:45 this evening, the streets shining after the storm at 6:00.
2019: A cool night in the low 50s. The day sunny and mild, a perfect morning. Doves calling when Jill and I sat on the porch for coffee, blue jays restless, a wren making its “chrrr” sound. A black walnut thumped on the shed roof as we were getting ready to go inside. At Ellis Pond this noon, we found a cicada lying quietly in the grass. At the Morris Preserve south of Xenia: drifts of horseweed in flower, elegant and silvery in their numbers; long fields of tall goldenrod just shy of opening; many clumps of thin-leafed coneflowers/sunflowers (Helianthus decapetalus), two great blue lobelias; small woodland sunflowers (Helianthus strumosus) here and there; a tall prairie grass with golden pollen.
2020: Heat into the 90s. The first giant swallowtail (Papilio cresphontes) in many weeks visited the zinnias this morning, along with at least two monarchs, two tiger swallowtails, a bright yellow sulphur, many silver-spotted skippers and two hummingbird moths, one large, one small. Late in the afternoon: three tiger swallowtails all at once. Field crickets very loud at Moya’s.
You will find much more laboring amongst the woods than you ever will amongst books. Woods and stones will teach you what you can never hear from any master.
Bernard of Clairvaux