Its been a long while since I wrote last. A rainy soaked August morning, quiet and fuelled by slowly sipped coffee presents the space I’ve been waiting for to return to writing here.
August is sort of melancholic backdrop for me, against the general busyness of a month filled with markets, weddings, lots and lots of harvesting, battling weeds and trying to fit in a bit of wandering and rest.
In August, the birds quiet down. Their morning chorus is quieter and features more soloists. During the day they are flocked up. It becomes more about the survival of the group versus one’s individual line. Now seems like a time of celebration and feasting in the bird world before their long migrations. At the farm, the skies are filled with swallows, the grasses move in waves of black birds, and the shocks of electric goldfinches glint out of the trees and puddles.
The bird song is replaced with the 2019 round of cicadas. Their constant drone is their turn to sing about their long wait and their short time in the sun. The crickets accompany them with their quieter, melodic tune. I interrupt their small symphonies while weeding.
This time of year always approaches quietly and catches me unaware and unable to answer the question: did I embrace this summer fully? Did I appreciate the moments of the sun warming my skin as it lightened my hair and illuminated the flowers? Did I take notice of the narratives of the non-human lives that parallel my own and so often are ignored?
This time is bittersweet because I know soon the birds will leave, the animals will go into their burrows and the insects will complete their short lives. It fills me with the same feelings of summers growing up on the coast with my mother’s family, where we’d come together for a couple short months by the sea. As August approached and we readied to head back to our individual homes and soon to regular routines, I wondered did I swim enough, did I run and place hide and seek in the dark with my cousins enough, did I eat enough fresh watermelon and see how far I could spit the seeds, did I appreciate the gathering of my family, with all our love and squabbles, before we were parted for the year?
This year, I consider my larger family, my kin that does not share the same shape of my eyes, but comes in a diverse and beautiful array of shapes and forms: winged, clawed, beaked, and crawling. Did I appreciate our season together? Did I listen when they spoke to me, or did I rush past, consumed with work and worry and my own separate existence? Some of them I have met only this year and they will be gone at years end, their live’s short, but precious to themselves.
I am so grateful for the spaces that I can gather with this extended family: on the farm, in the woods, in a bog or by the lakeshore, just like I am perpetually thankful to have had a home growing up where my family could gather all together and be in each other’s company. But when my family had to sell our house by the sea, we could still gather together elsewhere. My extended kin: furred, spiky, six-legged and so different and yet so similar to me, they don’t have other places to go. The homes they need to thrive are specific and threatened. The spaces that I meet them in are necessary for their survival. I have been wondering if I share these spaces fairly or am I unwittingly pushing some of them out. I have been wondering what more I can do and if I do enough. In a podcast I listen to, a gardener from Ireland told a story about one day looking out her window and watching a family of rabbits, then a fox, then a number of hedgehogs all run by. She went down the road and found a vacant lot, full of brambles, grasses and trees had been entirely wiped clean for development. Refugees on a hyper local scale that would be unaccounted for except she witnessed them.
There is a need for witnesses, for remembrance, for reflection, for communion and conversation. These are essential roles. But there is need for more, for action and for recognition of actions. That is where I am, on this August morning, questioning how I can live more softly and protect effectively.
Today, I challenge you to look into the face of a spider, a grasshopper, a flower, a goldfinch, a racoon and remember, these too are individuals, beloved to their own, and extended kin. I challenge you to join me in thinking how can we live better, together, in our homes.