Phenology Journal in the Third Week of Early Summer

As the moon wanes through the third week of early summer, goslings feed half grown among the river’s reeds, arrowhead, water willow and lizard’s tail. More grackle and robin and starling fledglings chatter in the undergrowth. Cedar waxwings feed in the mulberries. From Louisiana to Wisconsin, wetland hemlock and cow parsnip, angelica and golden parsnip and dock flower above adolescent touch-me-nots. Cattails emerge in roadside ditches.

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Photo by Barb Bayliff

Japanese beetles eat and mate in roses and ferns. Fireflies glow and breed in the honeysuckles. Earwigs lurk in the primroses. Monarch butterflies reach the northern limit of their migration as milkweed plants form buds. Toads have left the sloughs of the Ohio River, but tadpoles still swim in the pools of the Alhambra in Granada, Spain.   Young coyotes come out of their dens in the Rocky Mountains. Elk give birth as the annual dandelion bloom (a sign of April in Pennsylvania) closes in the mountains of Wyoming. Ospreys nest in the dead treetops of Lake Marion in South Carolina. Alpine tundra wildflowers blossom all over Vermont’s Green Mountains.

Yucca plants send up their fat stalks in Michigan as well as in Alabama. Yellow sweet clover and blue chicory line the roads from Cincinnati to Chicago. Hickory nuts in St. Louis pace hickory nuts in Spoleto, Italy. In Maine, peonies, iris, and poppies prolong Maryland May. Butterfly weed blooms in southern Illinois beside drifts of highway lilies, prophets of July in Minnesota. Throughout the high Appalachians, rhododendrons – which ended their bloom-time two weeks ago in Pittsburgh – begin to open.

In the third phase of the Hummingbird Moon, May apples grow fruit the size of an acorn. Pie cherries are ready for pie. Rhubarb stalks are thick and full of juice. Mulberries and strawberries are sweet.The first domestic raspberry reddens in town gardens. The first blackberries are soft in northern Georgia. Elderberries, in flower now across the Midwest, have set fruit near Atlanta. West Virginia’s horseweed of August is open from Savanna into Key West. Thistles bloom near Erice in northern Sicily, just like they do along the Mississippi River.

In events such as these and in their endless parallels, home remains the prime meridian, the context of what might otherwise be chaos of awareness and enumeration. Like an ethics of space and time, home lays the measure of the year and sets the broad grid of landscape. It offers a sense of direction and lights the way, explanatory and comforting.

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