In Heat


  • Fat city for scavengers, wading birds, and others.  Egrets pluck abundant minnows from the shallows, cormorants dive for minutes at time seeking slightly larger prey, this seagull feasts on a fish carcass thrown overboard after filleting (which is much better than sending it to the town dump.)  The size of the head indicates it was taken in the open Sound, just a short trip past the inlet.  Amazing that such remain relatively abundant.
  • We’ve lost lobsters, dolphins, seals, and oysters from the harbor proper, although oysters may be making a comeback.  It’s hard to imagine how bountiful this area was four hundred years ago, for the natives and first colonists.  But I admit I am surprised that dolphins and seals still roam the open waters,  and that huge fish can be caught frequently from a large party boat that departs Halesite every day.  I hope that means the world is not in quite so desperate shape as I often fear. 


  • Fiddler crabs menacing each other at muddy low tide.  So many of the smaller and stranger life forms have even odder sexual and survival patterns.  Happening all around are some form of procreation and development of new moon shells, whelks, horseshoe crabs, periwinkles, seaweed, diatoms, protozoa, bacteria, and who knows what else in the countless variety of a summer briny soup.  All that can be seen are often the tragedies _ empty oyster and clam shells picked clean by gulls, carapaces of dead horseshoe crabs.  And yet, even in these polluted and crowded shores, life is throbbing to the seasonal rhythm.
  • I know nothing of, for example, the mating habits if any of fiddler crabs, nor anything of their life cycle.  Yes, I know all that could be quickly gleaned from an internet search.  But if I cannot know everything, of what value to me is knowing such details?  I find it more important to take the time to notice that the crabs are crawling around, dashing for cover at every shadow, and filling their days incomprehensibly in the hot sun.  Sweating here beside them I am a part of the dance in a way I can never be in front of a computer screen or book, no matter what I think I am learning.


  • Beehive in a shrub.  Seems to be real bees, not wasps, hornets, or yellow-jackets.  With all the flowers around the yards, bees are welcome sights.  Industrious and important parts of any ecology, and severely threatened by pesticides, parasites, and other dangers in recent years.  When there are lots of bees, it is easy to feel that things are right with the world.
  • But, like a shepherd confronting a wolf kill, I am conflicted.  Part of me considers it a privilege to be hosting a beehive on our front yard.  But another part loudly claims “it’s our yard!”  Bees sting _ trimming, weeding, and general work in this corner will be all but impossible.  Can’t move them without destroying them.  Maybe the winter will get rid of them naturally, but if not?  Ah well, for now procrastination seems the best policy, especially since they didn’t sting me when I disturbed them by pulling out a grape vine.  


  • Cold front moved through last night with splatter of rain and subdued thunder.  Today thermometers read the same, but air is crisp and clear, far seems near, colors sparkle.  Sweat dries immediately instead of running in rivulets and drips.  Heat is not just heat.
  • Time for cultivated species to shine.  Most roses and all crops would not survive without cultivation and care, but they are still beautiful and necessary.  Arguments rage as to what is natural and what is “secrets with which we dare not meddle,” but humans take every genetic accident they consider useful and cause it to triumph over other, better suited, species and varieties.  No real value judgements here, just pointing out logical inconsistencies. 


  • No cotton around here, but the phragmites are high.   A day may be hot even with constant cloud cover, the world slowly braised and wilted together.  If the sun breaks through, frantic admonitions will be issued on media for everyone to stay inside and drink approved liquids.  Adding to hysteria, alerts and warnings of smoggy air quality as if mustard gas were arriving on the Western Front.
  • (Some disconnected neurons contend the pink flowers are Joe Pye Weed, but I wouldn’t put money on it.)  When I was young, before much TV weather or air conditioning, I never remember my parents telling me that I didn’t have to mow the lawn because it was too hot (and July was always too hot in Philadelphia.)  My track coach would issue us a salt pill before sending us on a ten mile training run _ it was thought water would give us cramps.  Like all older generations, we think the next ones are less and less rugged, more unable to handle the simplest problems, and it increasingly annoys us that they seem to muddle through just fine.  


  • Although now is the beginning of fat time of year, when there is lots of food for everything, it is also the beginning of stress and attrition.  Voracious insects attack foliage, any long periods of missed thunderstorms and other rainfall lead to stressed leaves, curling brown on outer edges.  Accidents and other issues cut into newly born populations.  But it’s glory time for ragweed, ready to take over where anything else has failed.
  • Ragweed almost requires people, because its main requirement is that we disturb the land frequently and render it completely unnatural compared to its “native state.”  Of course, that image is somewhat silly _ ragweed evolved long before people, taking advantage no doubt of natural disasters that also upset equilibrium.  When I think of things as dichotomies _ stable or disturbed, natural or man-made, even beautiful or ugly, useful or not _ I am deeply into a pattern that is true in my own mind, and perhaps shared by a few other similar humans, but in no way objective nor in a formal sense “correct.”  In my arrogance, it is easy to forget that is always so.


  • “It’s too darn hot” goes the old song.  For much of the natural world _ birds, fish, many plants, some mammals _ sex has wrapped up for another year.  For those species, it’s all about the next generation, like ripe grasses along the roadside.  There are more animals, as ruthless nature begins the winnowing process.  Insects are probably still madly procreating, which spiders are quite happy about.
  • In spite of the Kinsey report, humans seem to manage to “sport” in all but the most extreme conditions.  Lately, many of them refuse to be winnowed.  A growing problem _ yes, that’s a pun.  Anyway, the race is on as to whether we can control the urges of our species or let them run wild until inevitable catastrophe.  Hot bright sun on this hazy morning, lush scenery and even our toys ready for water play, should provide reasons enough for us to seek to preserve our miraculous heritage.