By Robin Garrison Leach
August in Missouri is a soft, mellow hum. Lazy puffs of wind—quiet and occasional—sigh hot-breathed words along the grassy slopes and harvested fields.
Like satisfied gluttons, filled and tired and sleepy, most insects of August find the simple act of sound-making much too taxing. They glob into lackluster clouds now, whispering lazily along the edges of ponds and around back porch lights.
The buzzes and clicks and burrs that filled the early summer air with strident echoes fade, letting cicadas rattle their rhythmic August solos.
Chickadees and robins and cardinals are quiet now, too. They’ve completed the cycles of building, birthing, feeding and letting go. The August sun forces them into lazy seclusion and no purpose propels them.
The grass still grows. Its roots cling tenaciously around shelves of crater-cracked, heat-baked dirt. The bright green hues of spring are gone. Summer’s vigorous sheaves of grass, those blades that grew thick and unruly like sweaty, tousled hair on playground children, have succumbed to August’s lethargy.
Now only the strongest, most tenacious blades of grass dare scrapple toward the sunlight’s pounding rays. Sharp stalks of tough, weedy-dullness slice through the hard soil. Brown tinges their tips; unabashed homeliness, the price they pay for longevity. Mower blades whir across them and chop away at the dust and dead bugs and vacated webs that collect there.
Clouds hold little promise of changing weather. Feathery as dandelion puffs one minute, they melt and disappear into the waterless blue sky. Occasional bubbles of thick whiteness provide moving pictures for imaginative eyes.
Elm trees, still green-leaved and thrumming with life, read the signals of August. Their smallest leaves have grown to maturity. Birds’ nests have fallen away. Cicada shells decorate the trunks and lower branches like porcelain brooches, clinging testaments of bursting birth from lifeless husks.
A few dozen dawns will pass, and the leaves that hang motionless along graying limbs will blaze with the fire God gives all things before death. Until then they dangle in still clumps, giving mottled shade and twisting up now and then to watch for rain.
Missouri in August smells and feels and tastes like the end of a lavish party. Our eyes and hearts have enjoyed spring’s offerings of freshness. Our hands have worked the soil of early summer, planting seeds and pulling weeds.
We’ve taken deep breaths of summer’s best days and exhaled sighs of satisfaction at the warmth that fills our pores. Stretching and yawning. Rubbing our eyes. Waiting for what comes next.
Now the cycles of living and growing stall. Landscapes burn into palettes of sameness and the monotony comforts our souls. We remember the crescendos of spring. We danced to the choruses of early summer.
August is the cradle-rocking creak of a weary world waiting for autumn and, inevitably, winter.
Sit back and listen to the stillness.