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As I sat in the bed of a truck, holding buckets of flowers steady with my legs, a dog-day cicada buzzed out of a clump of goldenrod. A noisy little mosaic of black and green, the cicada climbed onto my finger, and perched contentedly. As I watched it, I was struck by the amazing cycle these creatures go through; underground for up to five years in total darkness, emerging into the sunlight to sing for one or two hot months, and then they go silent. It falls on their progeny to keep the song alive. The cicada took off for the treeline, and I helped bring the flowers to the cemetery, where they would help to celebrate the life of a local man, Stan Hildeband. We and the cicadas aren’t that different, really.
Cool weather and overcast skies bring a tantalizing taste of autumn. In the morning, I walk mulched paths lined with mushrooms that sprung up in the night. By the evening they’re gone, leaving no hint that they’d ever been there. Crickets, katydids, and our resident barred owls sing in the night. The wild bergamot and Queen Anne’s lace have gone to seed, and in their place are now yellow clouds of coreopsis and tickseed sunflower. Canada goldenrod has just begun to bloom, and bumblebees buzz clumsily from flower to flower. It won’t be long before the prairie grasses begin their change from blue green to sunset purples, reds, and blazing amber. Though I’ll miss the chalky orange colors of Ohio’s sugar and red maples, the grasses will help fill that void.
I greatly value the new activities in my life that are directly tied to the seasons, one of which is splitting wood for the coming winter. Expert wood-splitter, Prairie, taught me how to swing an axe, and after a few blisters (and more than a few curse words) I began to get a feel for it. There is still a mountain of wood left to chop, but I feel empowered now to keep myself warm with my own hands rather than relying on a grid that could go down with the slightest hiccough. The sense of security and purpose this gives me is enormous.
For me, these cool nights bring with them a feeling of urgency and a sense of bittersweet loss. Before I know it, it will be time to light my first fire in my wood burning stove. The prairie forbs of summer will turn to dry, brown seed heads glittering with frost, only to fall and enrich the soil for the flowers of next year. I can’t explain why, but this coming season of somber skies and falling leaves is my favorite; a time to be silent and feel the transition from the lush haleness of summer into brittle autumn, and to know that we are part of this great cycle.
It’s a reminder that, like the cicada, we must sing our songs in the little time we’ve got, and trust that our beautiful earth will keep on turning.
Katie Sumner has been living at Dancing Rabbit for about four months now. In that time she has become a part of the Thistledown kitchen co-op, joined the SubHub natural building crew, and learned to split wood (something a lot of folks here aspire to, but never get around to doing). You can often see her walking her dog, Ripley, around the village, stopping to chat with whomever she encounters.