Thursday, September 1, 2011


Two blocks inland the air is still and hot, leaving the patchy shade from an overhang of oak branches still, soaked with heat and buzzing with small insects. The backyard patio hums with late summer stratagems of nature, the bending of grass, the twisting fall of a leaf, the humped passage of striped caterpillars. A canna lily, its red and yellow petals straining upward lies flat on the ground, unrecovered from the battering of wind brought by a passing storm several days earlier. On the sandpaper brown of a fence, one, two, no three lizards do pushups, the rosy inflated sacs at their throats pulsing in arcane signals that send messages to mates and challengers. Undisturbed by breeze or fan, heat radiates from the concrete deck passing through shoes and crawling upward.

An ant strays up Angela’s arm, frantic in its zigzag busyness, dodging the slaps aimed at knocking it loose. On another day the stirring of air might ruffle the pages of the book in my lap. Now, pages flattened by mugginess seem tired of being read. But my companion has lost interest in the story and unable to see, asks what is moving about at the top of the fence. No answer is necessary as a moment later the blue jay announces in his familiar raucous voice that for the moment he is king of the fence. On other days a splendid cardinal has perched on that same fence surveying all with princely contemplation. The bluebird screeches and ruffles his feathers, and a moment later launches himself to a higher perch in the limbs above. As if to prove that our quiet corner is safe from intrusion or threat, a box turtle the size of a halved melon lumbers from beneath a hedge, aiming itself for Angela’s feet. I point out the encroaching reptile, and am surprised by the look of glee on her face. The tortoise stops, draws head and legs into its shell as I reach to pick it up, docile and patient while our fingers trace the beauty of its yellow and black geometry.

The hour passes, our beloved patio kept bearable by splotchy shade, the whir of cicadas and a melody of birdsong. We consider the arrival of September, wondering if it will bring the breeze to make our outdoor haven a shade more comfortable.


  1. Well done. Perfect descriptions to paint a picture that puts the reader on that patio observing the late summer animal (and human) life never ever static. Adam and Eve must have found their garden patio endlessly fascinating--even the snake. Cavemen must have peered out of the opening of their cave at the wonder of it all, at so many creatures moving below.


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Oak Hill, Florida, United States
A longtime expat relearning the footwork of life in America