Article and photos by Joe Mish
Dining at the underwater salad bar, this deer enjoys more than a mouthful of greenery, obtained by submerging its face in the water up to its ears.
August is a deep relaxing stillness in the never-ending cycle of renewable life. It is the moment after the final brush stoke is applied to an artistic masterpiece. Work that began anew, a year before, has reached a higher level of maturity in an infinite succession of seasonal effort.
The terminal end of each season can be a time of reflection, as an endpoint immediately prompts the thought of a beginning. August, however, is different, as there is an aura of timelessness created in an extended moment of satisfying exhalation; an arrival after a long journey.
Time is now suspended by desire. August is the moment we want to last. There is no desire for summer to end or feel the chill of winter sooner than scheduled. Mentally we drag our feet to slow the calendar, even assigning 31 days isn’t enough, and in response, time accelerates.
While the berries harvests of June and July have gone by, the plants that sent their energy to the fruit, now direct it to the roots and leaves in preparation for next berry season. The berry season may have been the highpoint for berry consumers but for the blackberry or dewberry plant, August is a finish line in a race to recover and maximize growth for next year’s crop.
The dark green leaves and vegetation, that dominate the high summer landscape, are noticeably different than the array of green tints seen in the spring. It is as if colors went through a maturation process independent of natural influences. Where the palest greens began to darken in color, as each successive tint accumulated, until it reached a deep forest green.
The summer greenery is not limited to plants and leaves dancing in the wind. Beneath the surface of the river, underwater grasses have reached maturity by late summer. In clear shallow water, the fast current animates long strands of flowing grasses, isolated in bundles across sections of sandy river bottom. Dark green grass sways alongside pony tails of Kelly green and gray green grass to cast a hypnotic spell on a passing paddler.
Deer relish these grasses and spend many a high summer day, faces submerged, full to their ears, in an effort to enjoy that cool mixed salad.
Blooming raspberry colored thistle, topped with flocks of hungry yellow goldfinch, teasel, goldenrod, strands of deep purple pokeweed berries and off-white Queen Anne’s lace, act as colorful bejeweled timepieces set among the greenery of August. Listen closely and you can even hear the ticking of that seasonal clock as black walnuts begin drop. The ticking is especially loud and shocking when a plum sized black walnut falls into quiet water on a calm, windless day, to spike a paddler’s heart rate.
Goldfinch and tiger swallow-tail feed on the blooming thistle of late summer.
August can hardly keep a secret as it reveals a preview of things to come. Look closely and you can find isolated flashes of red and orange staghorn sumac, poison ivy and Virginia creeper. Even if you miss the visual clues, August provides an occasional chilly morning as a reminder that its moment of stillness is just an illusion.
The gold of August is revealed by its first two letters, au, the symbol for gold and awarded for achievement. The ‘gust’ or gusto represents the vigor of mature life that peaks in high summer.
Author Joe Mish has been running wild in New Jersey since childhood when he found ways to escape his mother’s watchful eyes. He continues to trek the swamps, rivers and thickets seeking to share, with the residents and visitors, all of the state’s natural beauty hidden within full view. To read more of his writing and view more of his gorgeous photographs visit Winter Bear Rising, his wordpress blog. Joe’s series “Nature on the Raritan, Hidden in Plain View” runs monthly as part of the LRWP “Voices of the Watershed” series. Writing and photos used with permission from the author.