Do you hear what I hear? Cicadas: morning, noon, and (almost) night.
These are the Dog Day cicadas: the annual species who show up every year. Their little husks in the yard and their big songs in the trees are signs of high summer, and to me, of Home.
But more importantly, they are a sign that one bit of our world is working as it should.
If you don’t hear what I hear, can you go out and try? Listen for the buzzes and grindings and trills where the trees are: mature, native trees like Sugar maples, elms, red-cedars. For maximum effect, listen at dusk on a Greenway or near some woods, or under fat hackberries in a shady neighborhood, where the combined cicada volume can almost rattle your bones. We’re talking Spinal Tap “eleven.”
Every year, our neighbor’s treeless lawn proves good for something: June bugs. Hundreds of dark blurs zoom around us in bright sun, just a foot or two above the grass. They fly too fast to ID or catch, but when they land, they’ll crawl on a finger and take a ride.
I found the first skink hanging by his tail, twisting and paddling an inch above the floor. He was caught in a spiderweb underneath a chair, and he was just a baby.
Two days later, I found another baby skink under another chair. This one was still ambulatory but slow, with legs and tail wrapped in fluffs of webbing. Both chairs sit inside my screened porch: where spiders are expected, but where skinks are not.
Skink #1, I thought, was a fluke. But after skink #2, I started looking in earnest for ways to prevent a skink #3. Because—and let me paraphrase a line from The Importance of Being Earnest:
To lose one skink to a spiderweb is unfortunate: to lose two looks like carelessness.
Are you hearing awkward screams lately? From the sky, I mean. These are the screams I’ve been waiting for. Awkward hawk screams are a Sign of the Season.
Every summer, the Red-tailed Hawks who hunt the neighborhood train at least one baby to hunt. And even though the baby is already the size of his parents, his call is not.
Mom and Dad do the Scary Hawk Scream familiar from movie soundtracks: the raspy but piercing KEEEEEEEEE-ARR that fills the sky for about two seconds. This, I hear year-round when Red-tails soar overhead. Here’s a quick sample:
Easiest butterfly garden ever: let celery butts and carrot butts sprout, then stick ’em in soil.
Maybe I mean “easiest butterfly factory” ever, because these butts won’t just feed butterflies, they’ll make butterflies.
All summer, Black Swallowtail butterfly moms will find the leaves and lay eggs, and then you’ll have more Black Swallowtails. And if you put your butts where you can see them every day, you can watch the whole butterfly lifecycle from the comfort of a lawn chair.
If you have not yet watched a butterfly lay an egg, or a caterpillar hatch, or a caterpillar molt, or a caterpillar become a chrysalis, or a chrysalis become a butterfly, this scrap garden is your chance to increase your chances.
You MUST SEE THESE THINGS.
If you have a kid or a parent or a friend or soulmate or neighbor, then THEY MUST SEE THESE THINGS, TOO.