Summer in August can be a brutal thing here in South Georgia, and it usually is. Here recently it has been much wetter and far cooler than we’ve seen in years. A few years ago we had an August where the heat jammed into the triple digits and stayed there for most of the month. I can still remember pouring concrete at three thirty in the morning because the heat was so terrible during the day. Days and days and weeks and weeks of steamy, hot, oppressive, and never ending heat pounded the whole of the region until a day in the upper nineties seemed like a cold snap.
But this is not the August I was expecting. The temperatures have stayed in the low nineties, and it has rained nearly every day this month, so far. It’s the twelfth of August already, and while this is by no means the end of the Summer, it isn’t really as brutal as it has been known to be. There have been times when the end of August has cooled and become milder, which is what we’re having now. Yes, August has also been known to last until the last part of September, and I never really look for a break in the heat until October, but even that benchmark is less than fifty days away. If things keep going like they have I will have to mow the yard only twice more this month.
Heat means more growth for grass and there is no denying that but the light of day has a say in the matter, also. Now, even in what should be some of the hottest days of the season, there are signs the days are getting shorter. The wild grapes are producing fruit and their leaves are turning gold. The lower branches of the Chinaberry trees are losing their leaves. These are the trees that just a couple of weeks ago were nearly blue-green with life and energy. Their leaves were thick, full, and very dark with color, yes, just a couple of weeks ago this was how it was, and the heat gripped South Georgia as always in Summer. The long range forecast, the ten day forecast that is, tells us the mild conditions will continue. In ten days we will be a month away from the Equinox. Summer is a long way from being over and no one denies that truth. Yet there is it right in front of us all; it is ending, slowly, but just as surely as last Summer did, and the Summer before that one.
At seven this morning it was still not light enough to see to mow, but by seven thirty I was out in the yard. The mornings are still hovering around the mid-seventies so the humidity makes it seem so much warmer. I’m nearly a quarter of the way done with the front yard when the first broad band of sunlight tears into the front yard, splitting the shadows like firewood. Despite the rain the grass seems less thick, not nearly as sturdy, and it is easier to mow than even last week’s crop. The mower is muted because I wear earplugs and I listen to the one word song of the two stroke engine as the sun rises and the heat tries to keep up.
There is a very young and very wayward Garter snake in my path so I catch him, and release him into the planted pines over the fence. Tine was when a new snake excited me but what was once exciting when I was a boy is now just another event of the day. The wonder of the world is muted from responsibilities and duties and chores and mowing. The day cannot begin for me, writing cannot begin for me, until this is work is done, and I know it will be hours before I am through. The sun continues to rise, I push the mower, it eats the grass, and time trickles away like the sweat on my back.
I need a new blade, but should I buy one this last in the season? These great questions and more drift in and out of my mind. A thorny and green vine has survived last week’s mowing and now it races across the yard fully two meters in length. The mower misses it again so I back up and again it lives through the spinning death above. These are the vines that choke young trees to death so they must go. I pull the thing up by the roots and make a note to get a new blade.
I head back towards the shed and the mower coughs and sputters as I arrive. The gas tank is empty and I have timed it well. I refuel and keep going. In hotter times I would take a break but I want to get done before the sun gets too high in the sky. By next week I may be thinking of letting it go until the following week, and by the next week I will certainly be able to let it go for ten days. The vines are coming up now, I see them with new eyes now that I have looked and this is one of the sure signs of a Summer in decay. The angle of the sunlight is not as conducive for trees and grass as it is for vines. I remind myself it is too soon to be optimistic about August but by this time next week it will be over half gone.
May was hot, June was hotter, July was brutal, and now August is almost one third of the way done. Where did it go? I look over the yard and it looks different for I have done a lot of work outside this season. There is a new dog in Lillith this Summer. Bert is no longer here. I worried so much about how he would handle the Summer and he never made it that far. The seasons come and go, the leaves begin to turn, the grass grows, the rain falls, and I wonder how the Summer of 2012 has begun to slip away from me, even as I welcome the end.