The 177th Day of the Year
Each season brings a parallel change to the human mind and body. Every flower places its subtle signature on us; as the trees fill with leaves, so does our soul fill out for summer; the songs of the birds alter our rhythms; the south winds bring the scent of fulfillment, make us dream new dreams or remember old ones.
Day’s Length: 15 hours
Average High/Low: 84/63
Average Temperature: 73
Record High: 98 – 1964
Record Low: 48 – 1984
Like the 25th, today is typically sunny and dry, with little rain (just a 15 percent chance) likely. Highs are in the 90s twenty-five percent of the time, in the 80s sixty-five percent of the time, in the 70s or high 60s just ten percent of the time. Sixty-five percent of the lows are in the 60s, thirty percent are in the 50s, and 40s occur five percent of the years.
Middle summer typically begins near this date and lasts through the first third of August. In those six to seven weeks, approximately an hour is lost from the day’s length along the 40th Parallel, and the year turns toward autumn. Even though night lengthens in this middle season, the amount of possible sunshine reaches its zenith, and the percentage of totally sunny days is the highest of the year throughout almost all of North America. And between now and the end of the first week of August, average temperatures vary just one degree.
1983: First quarts of pie cherries picked today. Great mullein blooming by the roadside, common sow thistle in the garden. At the Indian Mound, cottonwood cotton drifting through the air. Two May apples picked, size of a small plum, tasted bitter. Low hop clover and Indian hemp identified.
1984: North Glen status: catnip, daisies, Deptford pink, fire pink, white sweet clover, trumpet creeper, daylilies, wild peppergrass, Japanese honeysuckle, rough-fruited cinquefoil, yarrow, blueweed, daisy fleabane, enchanter’s nightshade, forget-me-not, hobblebush, bedstraw, bittersweet nightshade, water horehound all in bloom. Brown berries on the Solomon’s plume, green berries on the poison ivy, red berries on the honeysuckles, half of the Canadian thistles to seed, hemlock half gone.
1985: Black raspberries at their peak along the railroad tracks north. Figwort discovered. First soapwort found.
1987: Early acorns well formed by now. Most Canadian thistles going to seed. Sweetheart underwing moth found at school, deep orange inner wings.
1990: American lotus pads have emerged at Caesar Creek, wrinkled at the edges, folded to the center like the claw of a Venus flytrap.
1991: Caesar Creek: Three big catfish and a carp today at far hole in three feet of water. Butterflies came to my hand, early cicadas whined, sporadic. Late blooming privet found in bloom at South Glen.
1996: Into South Glen all the way to Jacoby with Jeanie: First touch-me-nots, a total of three, in bloom. Avens is in early bloom along the river. Galls found on a few goldenrod. St. John’s wort and wild petunias seen. White wild yarrow in early bloom. The woods dominated by aging honewort, maybe two-thirds of it going to seed, and old clustered snakeroot. Old wild geranium seeds gathered. First wood nettle flowers have formed. First hobblebush with side flowers. Wood mint heading, maybe a week away from blossoming. First leafcup almost flowering, but most don’t even have heads yet. Thin-leafed coneflower is waist high most places, sometimes chest high. One bright green tiger beetle seen. Moneywort found, rich yellow in the dark bushes. Some buckeye leaves rusting in the undergrowth.
1997: Titmouse and flicker calls dominant these days. Grackles clucking in the back trees: mulberries are ready. Into South Glen: large fritillary butterflies. Several red admirals, the old first generation faded, the younger generation bright. Thimble plant in bloom. Aging moneywort. First buds on the wood nettle. Honeysuckles, some with orange, some with red berries. Late tall meadow rue. Late honewort. One bright green tiger beetle. Timothy is bearded. Cow parsnips have gone to seed. Cabbage moths clustering on the river bank mud, river fast and clear. A few parsnip heads are brown. Great blue heron flies off, low guttural call. Box elders hang with green seeds. Catchweed seed balls yellowing. Birdsong constant. Golden Alexander all to seed. Swarms of damselflies. Peak of wild orange tiger lilies. I surprised a young wood duck, and he scooted off downstream. Very late white violets. Yellowing garlic mustard leaves and buckeye leaves, give an autumnal glow to the woods, making a small but prophetic subseason in the undergrowth.
1998: From Jacoby to High Prairie: Rugosa roses still full. Some of their leaves had blackspot, and the small multiflora roses were losing leaves to the same fungus. Dogbane is complete in some places, some starting pods. Black raspberry still coming in. First blackberry turning red. Rare Turk’s turban lily at the middle of its bloom along the river, several hundred yards north of the old bridge bed.
2000: Thinking about fluidity and porousness/porosity of awareness and notes, the way that they interchange, the extent to which events infiltrate the psyche and how they change the perception in a cascade of alterations that leave nothing the way it was at the beginning. Each act of observation transforming the observer and therefore the nature of observations to come, the compounding of minutiae, the construction of new realities….
2001: Cardinal 5:30 a.m. To Caesar Creek: one carp, one drum, one bullhead, two sunfish. Wood thrush heard. Baltimore oriole seen. White beardtongue, in the middle of its season, common along the shore. Rugosas late, but very little else flowering.
2002: Driving across Iowa: The landscape remains stable at the stage of early June for 730 miles north and west of Yellow Springs. Yellow sweet clover, crown vetch, birdsfoot trefoil, and parsnips keep the roadsides bright. The corn is deep green, the elderberry creamy white, the wheat almost blue, the soybeans a middle green. Cottonwood cotton in the wind. At Council Bluffs, banks of poison hemlock in full bloom. One butterfly weed found. Then when we entered Nebraska, there was a quick end to the Midwestern vegetation. To complement the change, all the Nebraska wheat was dark golden and ready to cut.
2003: Japanese iris full bloom. The lily bed is strong now, the bright yellows and oranges complementing the violet of the mallow, the pinks of the hollyhocks, the gold of the heliopsis. More catmint in front would set them off, I think. I got my first chigger bites today; Jeanie was attacked yesterday.
2004: Along the bike path, the leaves are darkening, the summer deepening. Wild black raspberries are ripening. Leather flower and tall tell flowers are in bloom, but few other wildflowers are visible other than honewort, an occasional jewelweed and cutover rockets. At home, the lizard’s tail is at the end of its cycle and the very last water willow. Lilies gather momentum, reaching an early bloom stability. In the vegetable garden, the great-mullein marker is in full bloom. At the farmers’ market in Dayton, the first sweet corn of the season was for sale.
2007: One yellow rose flower destroyed by several Japanese beetles; no other beetles found. The birds are louder this morning, constant chatter in the woods – after last night’s rain. In the afternoon, I went to the Beavercreek wetlands, a brushy cutover swath in the middle of suburbia. The sun was hot, high humidity. Scrub trees and plants, noise of earth movers all around as more condominiums go up. Habitat of blackberry and black raspberry bramble, wild cherry and honeysuckle. Close to the ground, old sweet clover, aging white yarrow, seeded honewort, red clover, red black raspberries, dry blackberries, late parsnips, faded hemlock all to seed, late Rugosa roses, one delicate Deptford pink, many goldenrod and wingstem stalks, some boneset shoulder tall, not budded. One beautiful clump of full-blooming milkweed, but no milkweed beetles found. Dogbane with white flower buds nearby. A few St. John’s wort, and a shrub with 5-petaled flower clusters, palmate leaves. Some webworms had emerged on one of its leaves. A few damselflies by the water, one horsefly, no mosquitoes, two small moths, a cabbage butterfly.
2008: In the alley, black raspberries are ripening, quite a few dark. One summer avens blossoming, panicled dogwood fading, Don’s cherry tree still full of cherries. Peggy’s cosmos are coming in now. At the women’s park, Heliopsis, coreopsis and purple coneflowers are in early bloom Along the bike path south, avens, daisy fleabane and blueweed are open, but the few raspberries there are small and not ripe yet. Canadian thistles, nodding thistles, cow parsnips, standard parsnips, some hemlock are still flowering. Birdsfoot trefoil seen. In the back yard, the lone grackle may have a partner, a brother or a parent nearby – a male appears from time to time as she is feeding. No red-bellied woodpecker calls for a few days.
2009: To Gethsemani, Kentucky: In the woods, the landscape of middle summer at first seems so dark. The late summer staining of the leaves has not begun yet, and the spring flowers are long gone. The edge of the woods: the plants of August still without buds, ironweed and wingstem. In the hillsides, promise of September, the ubiquitous three-leafed stalks of field clover.
In the heat of the middle of the day, I ruminate on the infra nature of the flowers. The infra natures are, like landscape, figments of the mind, perhaps their angels, working miracles. And landscape, like something out of Genesis, becomes landscape in our own image and likeness.
“Cognition is a delusion,” says zen master Nansen, “and noncogition is senseless. If you want to reach the true path beyond doubt, place yourself in the same freedom as sky.”
Rumination, like cognition, I thought after reading Nansen, might be delusion, more projections of false self. And then I read more about the selves in Thomas Merton, the false self being the ego which remakes the world in its own image and likeness and in such arrogance feeds itself, the ego, with its visions. And here I was with names and enumeration, touching the landscape, doing just what Kent Ryden said was the simple state of affairs, what happens to a person just because they are alive.
Walking up from the open fields, I approached an island of trees and shrubs, with a great elderberry bush in swampy ground at its edge, and beneath the elderberry flowers that were breaking up and turning to fruit, a long drift of blackberry bushes, their ripening berries so bright and red. I began musing that, as a mentor of mine had hinted, it was the relationship with the blackberry that mattered, not the blackberry itself, and of course what could either of those ideas mean really, and was not the whole point just to wait until the berry was ripe and then eat it? But what about right now, my emotion when the berry was red and shining in the sun like the underbelly of this great elderberry bush? That too was a relationship, a kind of love.
2010: To South Glen at 9:30 this morning, heat and humidity building: Buckeye leaves rusting at the entry beyond the covered bridge, delicate honewort common and to seed. Rank, imposing wood nettle, chest high, all budded in its habitat close to the river, where the 17-year cicadas will appear again in 2021. Firm berry clusters on the Jack-in-the pulpits. Scattered violet remnants of the sweet rockets. Aging clustered snakeroot full of daddy longlegs. Yellowing garlic mustard and hemlock leaves and stalks, rose hips firm. May apples mottled and tattered, fruit gone. Ripe black raspberries, blackberries tight and green. Near what was once the butterfly preserve, Canadian thistles half to seed. Nodding thistles still full. Milkweed open but no milkweed beetles seen. Some white yarrow breaking down. Leafcup budded, jewelweed soft and lush. Fruit on the panicled dogwood. Fat Angelica collapsing, old parsnips to seed. Random white clover, red clover, a few white sweet clovers, a few purple vetches, some black medic, then deep in the woods the path is filled with white clover. I walk under the canopy of exotic honeysuckles and scrub box elder, black walnut, locust, Osage orange, and through a forest of September goldenrod, beside so many young wingstem along the path, through ground covers of clearweed and smartweed and waterleaf. A female mallard with four ducklings the size of my hand feed along the riverbank. Doves calling, red-winged blackbirds chortling and whistling, a grackle clucking, robins peeping, a catbird whining in a high sycamore, crows far off, once in a while a blue jay. Small tan moths rising from the undergrowth. Near the water, black damselflies with white speckles on their wings, luminescent blue damselflies, some thin darners, one emerald six-spotted tiger beetle. Sleek wood snails nestled on leaves. Shy mosquitoes in the open, hungry in the shade. One black swallowtail, one tiger swallowtail, question mark butterflies, cabbage butterflies. One spitbug hidden in its wet coverlet. One shining Japanese beetle. Houseflies mating in the sun.
2011: Lace vine and our orange trumpet creeper have put out their first blossoms. Full bloom of Russian sage at Peggy’s.
2012: To the quarry park: Sunny and warm with a steady breeze. Much of the landscape drying out and past its early June prime. But still a lot of brightness with orange butterfly weed, chicory, blue weed, blue vervain. Fields of white sweet clover and drifts of yellowing hemlock (with violet-gray stems), Queen Anne’s lace, scrub dogwoods with green berries, the very first teasel in bloom, a few fading cottonwood leaves, some black-eyed Susans, a few purple coneflowers, small daisies, many lesser daisy fleabanes, common ragweed to twelve inches, cattails sleek and firm, St. John’s wort, salsify to seed, silver olive with brown berries, yarrow, galls on goldenrod, violet-flowered wild garlic, red clover drying up, sumac with red seeds, milkweed budded, late rugosa roses, crown vetch, purple vetch, pokeweed with berries, gray headed coneflower, small flowered bindweed, no berries on the honeysuckles, one thimble plant in bloom, one dogbane ready to flower, many nodding thistles, a few blossoming still, most tattered and to seed, one black swallowtail, one monarch, two sulfurs, flies pesky.
2013: To the Grinnell walkway down to the Swinging Bridge at noon: The woods dark and subdued in this time between seasons. May apples toppled over, foliage dappled with yellow. Leafcup plants had been eaten off by deer, would bloom as they recovered. Near the wetland area, moss on a fallen tree seemed to glow in the twilight beneath the canopy. A few late enchanter’s nightshade plants still had tiny blossoms, but early summer’s honewort was gone. Pollen had disappeared from the clustered snakeroot. Some spicebushes and privets had green berries. Touch-me-nots were tall but not budded yet. The wood nettle of July was still not ready to flower. Down toward the creek, white hobblebush hydrangeas in bloom brightened the undergrowth, the only landmarks left from early summer. Light cobwebs of micrathena spiders, not the stickier ones of the late summer, lay across my way. A few inches above last year’s layer of leaves, the foliage of spring’s ginger, waterleaf, poison ivy, clearweed and bloodroot formed a low, intermittent canopy, replacing the common chickweed that had dominated the forest floor in spring. A lone daisy fleabane and one wilted ragwort had blossoms near a spring that crossed the path. Other fragments April and May: bare scaffolding of old meadow rue, sweet Cicely, Jacob’s ladder, wild geranium, golden alexander. The stalks of August’s ironweed, zig-zag goldenrod, white snakeroot and the small-flowered asters blended into the honeysuckles, their timing tuned by heat and the amount of sunlight. Algae and spent watercress lay below the Cascades. A few damselflies hovered near the old skunk cabbage. Cardinals called in the distance. Robins sang to guide their young.
2014: Black walnuts about a third of full size in the alley, avens moving to full bloom there. A zebra swallowtail passed in front of me as I walked along Dayton Street under the serviceberry trees. In the garden, a great spangled fritillary was sipping the milkweed. Now the lilies are picking up, fifteen this morning, the new Asiatics especially beautiful, deep red and violet. The astilbes are in full color now, complementing the hostas beside and around them, well planned by Jeanie. A short walk at the Mill Dam area, river very high from the recent rains: A habitat of harsh wood nettle (just starting to flower) mixed with delicate honewort (gone to seed), four and five foot wingstem stalks lining the path, many avens, patches of touch-me-not and tall coneflower foliage, several wood mint plants with new flowers, a few violet wild petunias (ruellia), and four tall anemones/thimbleweeds (rubus parviflorus).
2015: Twenty-seven different lily plants open today. Monarda, spiderwort, great blue hosta, heliopsis complementing the lilies. Peggy’s gray-headed coneflowers are just starting, and I saw several new rose of Sharon blossoms downtown. (Moya’s came in three or four days ago!)
Walking at Clifton Gorge and John Bryant Park: full avens, wood mint, pokeweed, lopseed, hobblebush and great Indian plantain. Clusters of ramps fully budded sticking up through the mulch, all their spring foliage gone. Some white vervain and some leafcup beginning, several tall nettles and thimble plants in bloom. One clump of bright Deptford pinks. Green hickory nuts on the path, a few green acorns. Fat red berries on one honeysuckle by the river. Cow parsnip and honewort to seed. Black cherry trees with black cherries. Only one wild raspberry bush seen: fruit still not ripe. Tight green berry clusters on the Jack-in-the-pulpit. The woods stained now with yellowing and rusting May apple foliage, sweet Cicely, Solomon’s Plume (with brown berries) foliage. A few buckeye leaves have turned, the undergrowth showing the summer’s age. This evening, John Blakelock called to say that his American toads were singing again, just started today. He’d never heard them try a second round of calls. Perhaps it’s the steady rains of the last week or so, the month’s precipitation at about six and a half inches, almost three inches above normal.
2016: Down the path to Xenia: Leafcup with early flowers here and there, ditch lilies common, some heal-all in the grass, full clovers and black medic, two touch-me-not blossoms, one patch of wild spiderwort with deep purple blooms, black raspberries mostly red but some sweet for picking, blackberries still small and green, one Rugosa rose bush with many flowers. At the side of the path, sprawling sweet rocket plants with their splayed flower heads gone to seed, garlic mustard stalks browning and green cones on the sumac. At the Women’s Park, heliopsis, purple coneflowers and milkweed were the dominant flowers. At home, as the stella d’oros and ditch lilies decline, the other day lilies ascend: thirty-two lilies in all in the late afternoon.
2017: At home, thirty-seven ditch lily blossoms this morning, fifty-six standard day lilies, three Asiatics, more damage to the day lilies from the deer. Once again, I walked Clifton Gorge and John Bryant Park on my birthday, the varieties of flowers almost the same as when I walked there that date in 2015. To my description of two years ago, I would add numerous luminescent green damsel flies, two red admirals, two azures, one brown, one pearl, one great spangled fritillary, a small cluster of pale violet spiderworts, a clump of white bee-balm, daisy fleabane common, enchanter’s nightshade, Canadian thistles and nodding thistles in flower, parsnips holding, berry clusters on the baneberry, elderberry flowers mostly turned to green berries, timothy and clustered snakeroot all to seed, tattered and disintegrating orchard grass, white vervain and hemlock, some fresh brome and recent bottle grass, yellowing meadow rue and blanched sweet Cicely, horsetail grass budded, leafcup and small-flowered agrimony showing some yellow buds, one orange butterfly weed, wood nettle not quite blooming, fat plumes of lizard’s tail, Saint John’s wort late full, milkweeds in full flower – but without milkweed beetles, one white yarrow, juniper berries filling the juniper branches, raspberries – some red, some ripe. I heard cardinals, a young crow begging to be fed and a pileated woodpecker .A green frog croaked by the creek. At the bend of the river before the old mill, a great blue heron flew up from the flooded shoreline. And after I ate lunch at the lower picnic area, a small groundhog approached me and sniffed my boots. When I left he followed me quite a ways, squeaking, running hard to catch up.
Unlike simple geographical locations, which exist objectively, places do not exist until they are verbalized, first in thought and memory and then through the spoken or written word. Only when they have coalesced in the mind, and then achieved narrative expression, can places have anything more than an idiosyncratic, private existence. Only when place has achieved verbal expression, in turn, can it have any sort of permanence and its meanings remain secure. It is the function of the essayist to bring place into being.