Summer has just passed midways, if you were to gauge it by our orbital path around the sun. Scientifically we still have until the third week in September to enjoy the 2010 summer season. But for most of us we begin the season with Memorial Day and end it on Labor Day. In just one week our kids will begin returning to the classrooms and we start putting away the toys of summer.
If the season has not rushed by quickly enough on its own, retailers have begun sending us Christmas catalogs in August. TV shopping channels have week long specials to purchase early gifts for Christmas morning. And on the radio we hear commercials for a store running specials on new furniture to perk up your living room before the holidays.
Most people call this time, the Dog Days of summer. The August air is hot and heavy with sticky humidity. Small creeks dry up leaving beached crawdad shells on the rocky stream bed. The river and creeks run more slowly and take the appearance of being stagnate. And the odors of the warm waters can easily be sensed by our nose when we wander near the streams.
But for me, I have always believed that this should be called the Insect Days of Summer. The world around us becomes filled with a variety of small creatures that fly, run, creep and crawl all about us. The seasonal lives of the small creatures seem to be designed by Mother Nature to be at its peak in August.
It is the time of year when the wasp known as a yellow jacket seems to become more aggressive. If you are picnicking outside the yellow pest seems to come from out of nowhere to annoy your guests. You have to be careful when eating, that one of the fierce insects has not crawled inside of your ham sandwich. That sweet drink sitting on the table may end up being a pink swimming pool for the creatures trying to partake of your cool lemonade. At this time of year the yellow jackets' food supply has started to dwindle and they find our food to be an easy replacement.
The humid afternoon air becomes alive with the sounds of the cicadas hanging high in the trees. Locusts, as we call them have lived in the earth under our feet for years before reentering our world. On a hot night something inside them starts the small insect toward the surface to find a tree and begin the final cycle in life. Hanging almost motionless it begins to sheds its subterranean coat and transforms into a winged song master of the tree tops. For a few days it sings its song of summer's passing.
In the evening hours, we sit on our porches and watch the sun pass behind the hills to our west. As the evening progresses the Katydids find a perch nearby and begin a song of love. It hopes to find that special someone to make its short life complete. Looking much like a leaf they are sometimes hard to see against the green plants, but their song is unmistakable in the fading light.
As the last light fades the katydid passes the song on to its cousin the cricket. Crickets come in all sizes and colors. We are most familiar with the black cricket that lurks in that dark place around the porch. As the air cools they begin their song by rubbing their legs together to call to other crickets. As we sit and watch the fireflies in the distance we can listen to the song of the lowly cricket as night's darkness surrounds us. Some believe a cricket is a good omen. Other believes a cricket in the house is a sign of pending bad luck. But the song of the cricket is just his way of saying summer's end is drawing near.
For me, I guess the surest sign of summers passing is hidden just off the garden path. It does not sing or try and steal my sandwich, it only waits quietly and motionless in the shadows of the flowers. I know the solitary creature must have been there all summer just waiting. . . waiting for the songs of the insects to begin as our summer days become shorter with each passing hour. If you look close you will see the creature hanging on it web of silk.Just waiting for the unsuspected to stray into its lethal trap.
The pesky yellow jacket with its stolen piece of someone's meal now fights to free itself before it suffers the same fate. In another web, the green katydid sings no more for a mate, as the yellow spider wraps it in a silken cocoon.
This silent sentinel of the garden is called an orb spider. Its body is a bright yellow with black markings that makes this spider easily recognizable. It spins its web in a circular pattern with an area of distinctive white webbing adorning the middle. This special pattern of silk most likely reinforces the center of the spiders' web. There are those people that say if you look closely you can see a recognizable pattern woven into the web's center.
The ancient Greeks believe that he who possesses an orb could foretell the future. An orb or sphere throughout history is said to have power to give its owner the ability to look into the future and foresee coming events. Perhaps that is why this spider possesses the name Orb Spider.
When I was a young boy, my grandfather told me of the yellow spider that lived on the hill behind his house. He explained the yellow and black spider could supposedly predict future conflicts by weaving into its web's center, "W".He said the spider is called a "War Spider" and the "W" foretells the coming of war.
I have always remembered this story of prophecies and realized it is only an old man's folktale. But I also realize mankind seems to always be engaged in war somewhere in the world. Each day our country's soldiers bravely defend our country and die in a war far away. Man has long struggled to find a solution to solve the world's problems so no more wars need to be waged.
So perhaps the small yellow spider is wiser than we believe such a creature can be.
Perhaps there will come a day when the small spinster in my garden will weave into his web of silk another letter for man, "H". And all the American solders in harms way can come "Home" to find peace as I look Thru the Lens.