The Teeming Season


The world is in full fecundity. The bright clarity of June has given way to hot July, thick days and thicker nights pooling with song: cicada and tree frog and cricket and a thousand others I can’t name. In the corners of our windows, spiders profit in the damp darkness.

The spring wildflowers are all bloomed out now, and goldfinches leap from seedhead to seedhead, looking for morsels among the downy depths. The fierce little hummingbirds, who come to my feeders only every now and then in early summer, are back in earnest by mid-July, waging battles among the zinnias and the coneflowers and the beebalm. All day long, the bees themselves sink into blossoms, an embrace that looks so much like ecstasy it sometimes feels indecent to watch.


My favorite part of summer is the cry of fledglings, baby birds that have fled the nest and are hollering for help from tree branches and from deep inside the thickest shrubs. (Once, when he was little, I told my middle son that a mockingbird fledgling was calling to its mama, “Feed meFeed me!” and he said, “To a cat I fink it sounds more like ‘Eat me! Eat me!'”) I love especially the juvenile blue jays, quarrelsome as any hungry teenage boy, and the clumsy young crows, not yet so glossy black as their parents, who bumble along on the ground, croaking like frogs and stumbling like drunks.

In high summer, there’s hardly a reason to feed the birds, but I feed them anyway, hoping a full belly now will mean a sturdier constitution come winter. And, truthfully, because I love to see them so close, their colors as bright as any summer flower, their feathers still firm and full, weeks away from their ragged August molt. Even the red wasp has babies to feed and helps itself to the mealworms I set out for the bluebirds. I used to shoo them away—bluebirds respect the dagger of a red wasp and won’t come near any feeder a wasp has claimed—but I don’t do that any more. The world is fertile, and for now there’s enough to go around. Ripeness is all.