Summer home

2005 August 20
by David J. Ringer

GREENE CO., MO. — It has been hot. Pitilessly, inexorably hot, and I have stayed inside.

This evening as I stepped out the front door, I heard the hideous whine of a saw — no, it’s a weed trimmer — down the street. But even over the noise, I could hear the monotonous drone of a cicada. I noticed how cool it was under the threatening clouds, and I noticed drops of water on my car and on my skin.

But it wasn’t going to rain. And the cicadas droned on through the open windows of my car. At first I thought they sounded bored; then I thought they might have been passionately interested in their own voices and only outsiders were weary.

Robins scattered through the field as I drove along its edge. I guessed they were immatures gathered in a post-breeding flock; a quick look through the binoculars confirmed. I heard the peeping of a young, hungry cardinal, and I heard the soft cry of a nuthatch.

Then the world grew silent, save for the terrible roar of the lawn mower. Dust swirled and projectiles whizzed, mercifully missing my eyes and the green Camaro by the curb. The roaring blades ground crabgrass into a sticky pesto. A frantic Bufo narrowly avoided the same fate.

Only the cicadas were louder even than the awful engine. Above its roar I could hear them still. And I stole glances at the sky, where a swift peddled calmly against the gray clouds.

Then I stopped the mower, and the cicadas droned on, on, on. I heard a distant flock of blackbirds gathering for the night — starlings and grackles, perhaps.

I drove to Truman Elementary School and heard a nighthawk in the distance. Then there they were, right overhead, calling with soft, whispered voices I had never heard them use. Doves, robins, chippies, mockers flew by occasionally as light waned. I didn’t need to see them well. The softest sound told me who they were — voices of most trusted friends.

The nighthawks fluttered, chased, and floated, sometimes executing dramatic dives that almost made my stomach lurch. One rattled sharply at the bottom of a dive, and I caught my breath. I remembered reading something … feathers … flight display. Years of watching nighthawks but I had always missed this.

The cicadas droned all the way home, joined by grasshoppers who sounded like gadgets of gears and springs. Ice cream and a shower wait inside. Later, when the light is quite gone, the katydids will begin to sing, joining in a mighty chorus.

I will go to the porch to listen, as they tell me that it’s summer, as they tell me that I’m home.

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2 Responses
  1. wrr permalink
    August 21, 2005

    Found your blog next to mine when I checked my page. I’m glad I clicked the next blog button. You write well and I love the eloquence of your narrations.

    I wonder if you’ve been to Palawan (Philippines) where I hear bird watching is excellent.

  2. djr permalink
    August 21, 2005

    Thanks for stopping by. I hope you come back. I haven’t been to the Philippines … yet.

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