Nearing the End of a Hot Summer

Lizard Sept 7

Our hot, humid summer is turning brittle around the edges

Mantis July 27

Rabbit July 29

It’s reassuring, really, how fall arrives

Dragonfly July 28

Mockingbirds August 6

Even after the hottest of summers

Mantis July 31

I will miss the months of extravagance

Lantana July 6

Monarch July 21

But not for long

Bee July 17

Because spring is assured, even after the coldest of winters

Bee July 27

Dragonflies, Butterflies, and More

Summer has filled the yard with flying insects.

Dragonfly June 29

I don’t care for the sudden swarms of biting flies and mosquitoes, but the dragonflies seem happy. They hunt ravenously from dawn to dusk, eating everything they can catch–including flies and mosquitoes.

Dragonfly July 4

Dragonfly July 9

Dragonfly July 10

(Of course, they pause every so often to mate.)

Dragonfly June 16

Butterflies aren’t as numerous as dragonflies, but the butterfly bush, milkweed, and lantana draw a surprising variety of species.

Butterfly July 3

Butterfly July 10

Painted Lady July 9

Red Admiral July 12

Butterfly May 25

Butterfly May 29

Butterfly May 20

Butterfly June 11

Butterfly July 1

Bees are more interested in the salvia and dill.

Bee July 9

Bee July 3

And the June bugs seem strangely attracted to Treebeard, our young live oak tree.

June Bug July 4

June Bug July 4

All in all, it’s been a good summer in the yard. So far. (Though if it gets much itchier, I may end up spending the rest of July and much of August hiding in the house.)


Cosmos May 7

I can’t remember noticing, before, how the light changes as spring progresses.

Cosmos May 7

The yard’s surfaces absorb and reflect, soften and sharpen the sun’s new angle.

Iris May

Bees appear to fly through light, not air.

Bee April 29

Bee April 29

And birds strike silhouette poses, as if eager to be photographed.

Warbler April 29

Robin May 6

Is it all in my head, a side effect of spring euphoria? Or is it happening where you live, too?

Warbler May 3

If you live in the southern hemisphere, is it happening in reverse? Light reverting back to air, flattening against fall’s advance as bees and birds prepare for winter?

Spring is in the Air (and in the Ground)

Fly April 10

When the pear tree’s pollinators finally arrived, they arrived in encouraging numbers. Hoverflies were the first wave, pretending to be bees.

Fly April 10

Fly April 10

A wave of true bees followed.

Bee April 10

Bee April 10

Happily, a few Question Mark butterflies drifted in near the end.

Question Mark April 10

Question Mark April 10

While the pear blooms lasted, the yard’s winter flock of yellow-rumped warblers divided their time between sipping nectar, foraging for insects, and sampling the last block of winter suet.

Warbler April 11

Warbler April 11

(As an aside, I spotted the following warbler yesterday and was confused by its complete lack of yellow feathers. I believe it is a yellow-rumped warbler, but I’ve never seen one that didn’t have at least a blush of yellow under its wings. Please comment if you can correct or confirm my identification!)

Warbler April 22

As the pear tree dropped its petals, we readied the yard for summer. We replaced damaged boards on the aging deck, uncovered the ginger lilies, and swept leaves out of the cactus bed. (The carpenter bees ignored us and concentrated on chasing each other. They also chased warblers, chickadees, crane flies, hoverflies, beetles, bees, leaves, dandelion fluff, and pear petals.)

Bee April 22

The garden stores aren’t fully stocked yet, but we found most of the plants on our list: dill, fennel, milkweed, columbine, annual lantana, snapdragons, salvia, and cosmos.

Flowers April 22

Yesterday, this American Painted Lady butterfly made me wish we had planted more cosmos. (The yard’s 2015 butterfly sightings, so far, are a major improvement over last year’s butterfly drought, but they don’t begin to equal 2012’s impressive migration.)

Butterfly April 22

The yard’s birds have been getting ready for summer, too. This little house wren doesn’t have a mate yet, but he clearly has a favorite house.

House Wren April 21

House Wren April 21

A pair of robins finished their nest last week and now spend most of their hours foraging.

Robin April 22

Robin April 22

(I am amazed by how many worms they find and eat each day.)

Robin April 22

The robins aren’t the only efficient foragers in our area. A pair of osprey make regular passes over the yard, carrying fish. Yesterday I caught a few frames as one of the pair nearly dropped its lunch on the deck.

Osprey April 22

After a brief struggle, which lasted no more than two wingbeats, the osprey managed to subdue its lunch and flew on. What would happen if the fish managed to break free? Would the osprey land on my deck and reclaim its catch? (I’d probably drop my camera and break it, leaving me with no proof of why I dropped it…)

Over the years I’ve found many surprising things in the yard, but never a fish. Perhaps this summer?

Osprey April 22

Except, it’s not summer yet. Today the windows are closed against a surge of chill that moved in overnight and is forecasted to last through the next few days. Mother would have called it dogwood winter, expecting the dogwoods to bloom after the chill passed. Or blackberry winter, if the blackberries were due to bloom. I’m content to call it the end of winter.

Hawk April 18

Photos of Spring and a Publication Note

Flowers April 6

The daffodils, all three of them, bloomed this week. As did the pear tree.

Grackle April 6

While it has plenty of bird visitors, the pear tree hasn’t seen its usual complement of pollinators.

Robin April 6

The pear blooms usually draw bees and beetles by the hundreds, but many of the pollinators seem to be sleeping in this year. Yellow-rumped warblers are getting most of the nectar.

Warbler April 6

The pear tree’s pollinators may be sleeping in, but the carpenter bees are awake and active. Territorial males have claimed pockets of airspace near the house, fence, and deck. Their physiology must be wondrously efficient, because they patrol and defend their claims with seemingly endless vigor, never pausing to eat. They aren’t interested in nectar. They’re waiting for females to arrive.

Carpenter Bees April 6

My favorite news from the yard this week comes from the milkweed. It survived our long, cold winter, which means we might have more monarchs this year!

Milkweed April 6

My favorite other news involves a publication note. My short story “Numbers” is now posted at The Blue Hour Magazine. This is my first fiction publication!

“Numbers” is the first short story I ever attempted. For nearly ten years I returned to it periodically, each time applying what I had learned since its last revision. Finally, in 2013, the story seemed to defy further revision. By then the opening had been entirely restructured and the word count cut by more than half. That year “Numbers” won Honorable Mention in the Frank Lawlor Memorial Fiction Prize at the Hampton Roads Writers’ Conference.

I let “Numbers” drift to the bottom of my to-do pile after its award, but in January of this year I decided to give the story one final edit and begin submitting it for publication. Then I selected a new practice manuscript from the archive, because I am not through learning. My journey with “Numbers” has reached a happy and satisfying conclusion, but my journey with writing will never end.