Phenology Journal: Inventory in the Second Week of Early Summer

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Photo by Barb Bayliff

Sorting through my notes for the first day of June between 1980 and 2015, I find the close of iris and peony and sweet rocket seasons, the first grackle fledglings in the yard, roadsides of thistles, multiflora roses, birds-foot-trefoil, false indigo, new parsnips, blackberries, hemlock and the first ditch lilies in flower, black raspberries setting fruit, black locust clusters down, privet bushes starting to come in, angelica blossoming in the wetlands, yellow poplar petals falling, sundrop primroses opening, tails formed on the lizard’s tail. Many of the differences that marked the uneven advance of spring between the Gulf and the Great Lakes have become less radical, have settled into a relatively predictable pattern that measures latitude more than the vagaries of the year.

Photo by Barb Bailiff

Photo by Barb Bayliff

Five hundred miles between my home in southwestern Ohio and Wisconsin or Michigan, the landscape reflects a younger aspect, lilacs coming back into bloom, fresh iris and peonies and mock orange, a return to the most fragrant time of late spring.

South a few hundred miles, it is easy to find the middle summer of the Ohio Valley: Elderberries open, hemlocks and parsnips to seed, white sweet clover replacing yellow sweet clover, milkweed and cattails golden with pollen, trumpet creeper vines full of bright trumpets, tawny rolls of hay in the shorn fields, wheat dark or harvested, catalpa seedpods nine inches long, all the lilies red and yellow and violet, yucca stalks tall and past their prime: at any stop between the Cincinnati and the Tennessee border, measurable steps into July of the Lower Midwest..

Inventories for any particular day at home seem limited and static. However, they are not only replicable from year to year in place, but they also offer simple frames of comparison and association. Seasons are always in radical, violent motion, but slowed to a single day, they offer a delicate stability and a soft gauge with which to watch and identify space and time.

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