The cicadas buzz in the closing Queen Anne’s Lace, much of it brown and curled at the edges, aged with a summer almost spent. The sedges are burgundy-brown, decorated atop by the occasional Monarch, and showy goldenrod shoots skyward in clumps of blazing yellow. The prairie has entered its burgundy and gold period. Only a few tall thistles remain in the uncut weeds around the pond, daring to inject some pink into the landscape.
Gold finches feed on the remaining thistles, and birds that I don’t know hide in the bushes on their journeys southward. The robins and red-winged black birds are gone, and frog calls have been replaced by the songs of crickets. Tall grasses, rattlesnake master and compass plants add to the late summer party on the prairie.
This still heat of this late summer day beats down on my shoulders, fighting hard to push back the autumn breeze that threatens to whoosh the summer from the year. As I walk around the pond and through the restored prairie, I think about yet another summer flying by. So fast. What happened to those endless summers of childhood?
The prairie captures my thoughts, on particular this day, I think about the compass plants that tower in their seven- or eight-foot height above me. Each of them orients the flat sides of its leaves east/west and the growing edges of its leaves north/south. In this way, the plant is certain to obtain as much of the precious late-summer sunlight as possible for photosynthesis as the earth turns on its axis, moving the sun from east to west on the plant’s horizon. Sometimes I think it would be nice to be so sure of my direction, like the compass plant.
But as I walk, I wonder, if being sure of our direction is what compresses time for us as we become adults. After all, those endless summers of childhood were marked by endless days of no agenda. We might go outside and swing or “slip-n-slide” or ride our bikes to the moon or create a whole new world of creepy crawlers to inhabit a previously undiscovered planet. Or we might build an entire town using our box collection (Yes, I had a collection of empty boxes. They were my favorite toys.)
Our days, weeks and months had no direction or agenda, no schedules, and they lasted forever. We could fill them with books, music, and our own imagination. We had leisure time, lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer, and we knew what to do with them.
Does time fly by quickly today because retailers are putting back-to-school items on display before July 4 each year? Or Halloween decorations out before school even starts in September? I’ve already seen some Christmas items appearing in mail order catalogs. Maybe this is why time flies by so quickly, we rush it right along, moving from one event to the next, one season to the other, before the previous one has even occurred. We haven’t even enjoyed the last big weekend of summer or the lovely burgundy and gold season of the prairie before someone starts telling us to prepare for Christmas. And, before the Christmas Season is over Valentines Day cards will appear on retailers’ shelves.
So maybe having calendars scheduled to the max and plans for Christmas decorations sketched out before Halloween has happened is what rushes time. Maybe this kind of direction is not what we need in our lives.
Maybe we need to meander aimlessly through the prairie and enjoy the burgundy and gold season when it happens—as it happens—prairies don’t anticipate their seasons early by posting placards. Then, maybe, we can recapture the endless summers of childhood.
© 2008,2009 Michele Arduengo. All rights reserved.