Wilderness Is Way Too Dry But Surviving

by Curt Kovener

It had been a while since I was last at the wilderness retreat to mow. About four weeks by my reckoning and it had been more than that long since any rain has fallen. Wildflowers were pretty ragged and any semblance of grass had long turned brown and was crunching underfoot. Even the usually naturally hardy ubiquitous weeds were drooping from the draught of the long hot summer.
During the late summer mowing, weeds and any surviving grass over 6 inches tall were sliced off and considerable dust was raised in the process. If I hadn’t looked at the calendar, I would have judged it to be early October by the number of fallen leaves. The washed out lane from April & May deluges has long been forgotten. Now it is dusty as I drive along it despite a premature covering of fallen leaves from trees trying to conserve moisture.
After the mowing was done there was firewood which had been drying all summer to be brought in to the shed. As I loaded the wood, I thought, “If it isn’t dry to burn after this summer, then another season won’t really matter, I suppose.” Then to wrap up the chores, all of the equipment was blown off using an air compressor and the blades all sharpened for the next round of mowing. Which may be next spring if we don’t get some rainfall.
When it does come…and it will…I hope the rain does not arrive all at once gift but as a gentle night-long apology for being absent so long.
The cooler evening temperatures are giving some heat relief and any available humidity turns to thirst quenching dew at night.
I sat on the front porch early in the evening and watched with haggard yellow and black swallowtail butterflies flitter from lantana to cypress vine to salvia to their namesake butterfly bush seeking some nectar.
Then came the buzzing and angry chirping of territorial hummingbirds. It seems it doesn’t matter that all of nature is weary of the heat and dryness, these tiny green aerial acrobats want to make sure no other hummingbird feeds or rests on their territory.
But a couple of yellow swallowtails have adapted and have figured out that there is sweet artificial nectar in the hummingbird feeders. They perch gingerly on the plastic petals and extend their proboscis seeking the sugar water. The territorial hummingbirds pay these slower flying interlopers no mind but guard from a nearby dead branch those nectar-loving invaders of their own kind who would filch their food.
Off in the distance a bass viciously breaks the surface of the lake going after, I guess, a grasshopper who misjudged a leap along the water’s edge: a fatal mistake for the hopper but supper for the fish.
As the daylight fades way to dusk, the low voltage lights came on and the night bugs weren’t the only ones attracted to the glowing light. Granddaddy longlegs hover in wait on nearby leaves seeking a meal of a flying insect who would land nearby for a rest.
A rustling of those dry leaves caught my and Charley’s attention. It was a fat brown toad which moved under a light to await the coming onslaught of night flying insects. While I did not witness any feeding action, I could tell from his rotund size and his night light illumination cue, he wasn’t a stranger to this nightly dinner bell.
As I finished the last of my icy adult beverage, despite the day’s muscle aching activities—which I consider therapy—the wilderness provided me comfort (of a southern variety) and peace of mind.