August at Longleaf Preserve

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August morning sun lights up the heart of the grand old oak. Hawks raise families here. High school seniors in prom attire slip through the gate and pose at the tree’s base.

It’s an old tree. Stands just inside our gate. It’s been knocked around by countless storms and nearly wounded by the red arrow of a speeding Honda compact that missed the curve, crashed the aluminum farm gate, and stopped inches from the tree. Every day when I walk to the gate and see the tree, I feel transfused, and with that shot of strength, run all the way back home.

Partridge-pea (chamaecrista fasciculata) flowers all year. It likes pine flatwoods, sandhills, and ruderal sites.

Bright Partridge-peas poke up everywhere in the woods. Notwithstanding their ubiquitous presence, I see them and think lemon drops, maybe I’ll drink tea this morning. But memories are short, and by the time I reach home, my tongue leaps for Dark Italian Roast hot and straight.

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The natural spring crosses under the gravel road here. We put in a culvert to carry the stream from the spring-head to the swamp years ago.

I’ve never seen the stream so consistently out of its banks as it has been this summer.  I’d like to take off my running shoes and socks and cool my dogs in the water, but I don’t want to share the space with a Cottonmouth Moccasin, so I’ll admire from afar for now. Carrie Stevens, of the University of Florida IFAS Extension office for Escambia County, wrote on August 1st:

There have been very few days this summer without a thunderstorm–as I write this, the wind is picking up and the clouds are rolling in, once again. According to recent weather data, Escambia County has received 46 inches of rain this year (16 inches just in July), which is over 70% of our annual average of 65 inches. In a state like Florida with frequent rainstorms, the Panhandle receives the most annual rainfall, while the national average is 30 inches.

With all that water, it’s a bubbling babbler this morning. Natural springs are special places in the world, and hard to leave for long.

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Green carpet on the limb of a Disneyesque oak tree with octopus arms that bend to the ground, reaching hopefully from the low bluff for some sight of the sun.

Buds on  American Beautyberry (French mulberry) bushes along the gravel road from woods to gate herald the approach of fall. Maybe that’s why I love August. It’s like a blast of sound right in your face. All that heat and humidity and lush overgrowth. The air so thick it feels like you’re breathing oatmeal. Hair smooth, straight and sleek in the air-conditioned house fuzzes and frizzes by the first bend in the road.  It’s a month of hyperbole. You think it can’t quit.

And then you notice. Growth has stopped its rapid advance. It’s in a frenetic holding pattern.

One of our best months, September, is coming. I’m glad we’re not traveling this year. Not in September. Not in October. If you want to find me, you know where to look. I’ll be in the woods.

6 thoughts on “August at Longleaf Preserve

  1. I love the Beautyberry. Hoping to plant some here in TN. Only just noticed it recently at the zoo (of all places). It seems to do well in the shade too and I have an excess of shade which can be a gift in August. Enjoy!

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