The Winds of August
Heart Attack Edition
Here in Vermont, a chilly unease blew in on crisp northwest winds today. It’s not that three years ago today I nearly died in the woods from a heart attack — the unease has nothing to do with that. Instead, if you’re like me, chasing butterflies and dragonflies around New England, you know that our grand diversity and abundance of insects is now over.
Don’t get me wrong: those winds and this post constitute no lament of summer’s end. To be sure, the warblers no longer sing and the fritillaries have lost their glow. Yet August sings with crickets and glows with asters. The blackberry crop seems fine this year. And the Monarchs are coming.
Even so, I tend to mark a change of season in the flight of one particular insect: Leonard’s Skipper (Hesperia leonardus). If a butterfly can signify anything beyond grace and an affinity for plants, Leonard’s Skipper flies at a bend in the arc of summer.
Scarce and yet robust, this butterfly is on the wing here from about mid August to mid September — the last of its kind to show itself each year. Its relatives have already had their spring and summer flings.
I spent about six hours in one spot with Leonard’s Skippers in Maine last week, watching them frolic in the Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium) and nectar on a rare and vulnerable plant — Northern Blazing Star (Liatris novae-angliae). I would show you more images of this autumnal skipper, except that my computer died yesterday, and I won’t get back to those images until the machine is either revived or replaced (and I then restore my 20,000 photos and documents, some dating back to my first computer back in 1985).
And rather than pontificate on a skipper, which I did last month anyway, I’ll use the rest of this post to offer you but a fraction of the multitudes I’ve been enjoying in the three years since I did not die of that heart attack. So here below, in no particular order, are various readings, podcasts and flying things in my life since I reported to you on the blog nearly a month ago. Oh, by the way, that shot above is of my pal Josh Lincoln on a bog in Oxford County, Maine (those yellow flowers are Horned Bladderwort, at least I think they were). And below I’ll close with a summertime gallery, including a some puppy shots. Onward!
The Written Word — At long last, I’m now reading Braiding Sweetgrass by Robin Wall Kimmerer and Between the World and Me by Ta-Nehisi Coates. Shame on me for taking so long to get to them. My life and summer are also being enriched by Safe as Lightning, poetry from Scudder Parker, on which I will report to you in a separate post. And for searing perspective on the pandemic I suggest Ed Yong’s How the Pandemic Defeated America in September issue of The Atlantic.
Online and in My Ears — The epitome of essay writing, at the intersection of human nature and our vanquished planet, comes from the novelist John Green and his podcast The Anthropocene Reviewed. John reviews aspects of the human-centered planet on a five-star scale: Halley’s Comet and cholera in one episode, for example, or air conditioning and sycamores in another. Each essay, of course, is about us. (I give the podcast five stars.) Finally, a Vermont weather report and lovely photography arrive each morning by email from John Hadden’s East Street Weather Blog (although John is now on break).
Now, finally, some photos.