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September

When the thistle blooms and the chirping cicada
sits on trees and pours down shrill song
from frenziedly quivering wings in the toilsome summer
then goats are fatter than ever and wine is at its best
— Hesiod

We’re in that weird time of the year where the evenings are beautifully cool and the days are still in the mid-90s. The insects and plants are not fooled. Leaves are just starting to blush a little on some trees and the late summer insects are on the move. Do you have phases of insects? We do. In spring, the crane flies erupt from the grass in huge clouds and manage to find their way into the house, grossing everyone out. Early summer is time for the Japanese beetles. Midsummer, we get the June bugs: large buzzy emeralds that zoom around just above the grass, driving the chickens crazy. About this time the cicadas turn up - annuals every summer, periodic hordes on their own particular schedule.

In late summer, we get the scolidae wasps: dark, blue-winged wasps that zoom around over the grass looking for the larvae of the aforementioned Japanese beetles. The wasps are thereby my immediate friends. They’re nice looking, too: deep purple, almost black, with a cinnamon-tipped abdomen adorned by two distinct yellow dots. They’re non-aggressive and spend most of their time flying in large groups here and there over the grass, hunting the buried grubs that will feed their young.

Late summer is also the time for praying mantises at their largest, stickbugs, and butterflies all over the remaining zinnias and gomphrenas. The little butterfly bush near the porch has hosted monarch caterpillars in years past but I haven’t seen any this year. The pawpaw attracted tiger swallowtails to lay their eggs, but I pulled the larvae off to give the tree another season or two of growth before they make off with all the leaves.

Before much longer, the real heralds of fall will arrive: garden spiders and other large orb-weavers will appear in the remains of the tomato plants or in improbably big webs between trees. That’s when I know the party’s nearly over. Until then, we still get the soft daytime hum of the field crickets and a cicada or two. The hummingbirds are still fighting over the feeders and hopefully getting fat for their big flight south. And the sky has turned that cobalt blue once or twice. The afternoon light is a little redder, and the shadows are coming a little sooner.

Then the quietude. The insects will be gone until spring and I’ll miss their comings and goings, and especially their sounds. As for winter, I have plans for a 3-chambered bat house hanging above my desk. I hope to site it in the farthest part of our back yard, where it’s close enough to see but far enough away that nothing ought to disturb any bats who happen to move in. I saw a bat house in an urban garden recently end it was certainly full of bats. I figure if they can be happy there, perhaps they can be happy here too.

As far as books go, I just finished Ovid’s Metamorphoses and I’m re-perusing Joseph Pieper’s The Four Cardinal Virtues while I try to figure out what to read next.

TV-wise, we’re waiting for the return of The Expanse, Better Call Saul, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Crown. The trailer for HBO’s Watchmen caught my attention, too. Over a couple of nights this week, I watched the BBC/Amazon production of King Lear and I thought it was great. I’ll never read it again without seeing Anthony Hopkins, Jim Broadbent, and Emily Watson in my head.