“Now Rabia, this is the time to write.” I say it with a mock sternness, unsure if she can discern humor. She looks back at me with what I judge to be pools of affection in her baby brown eyes, blond hair slightly ruffled, ears perked with a leftward tilt. She wants one of the peanut butter filled pretzels I am snacking on. Dogs are such hopeful beggars but they can’t always read human body language or moods.
This dog, like most dogs that share our homes, is so darn domesticated I wonder if she can still hear the whispers that measure time. By which I mean the seasons. Does she recognize the signal poplars have been sending out for weeks?
Poplars are the canary in the cage when it comes to an early warning of autumn. Did you know they are clonal? That means that what looks like a stand of several separate poplars may all be of the same root system and therefore, actually one tree. There is a poplar across 5 & 20 from Long Pier Ice Cream whose leaves have been turning yellow since early August. Yet a few a hundred yards away, in the jungle along the railroad tracks near the unofficial but greatly populated Geneva beach, there are poplars still moist and green. It’s hard to judge how long before the change.
It is ninety degrees as I write this, hot for late summer in the Finger Lakes, yet the whispers of autumn are everywhere. Ivy flowers are another whisper of change, those small yellowish sprouts that attract increasingly desperate bees. And garbage bees! It has become impossible to eat outside without yellow jackets crowding in with an annoying “me too!” attitude.
If Rabia was paying attention she would have noticed the wind picking up. It gets windier in the autumn because warm air is lighter than cold, and the colder air from above moves downward pushing warmer air back up – resulting in wind. Sometimes, in late afternoon or early evening, it is even enough to disperse the yellow jackets.
The ancient prophet Jesus is said to have complained to his students they knew how to interpret changes in the seasons but couldn’t interpret their present moment in history. I am trying to read the signs of the present moment too, but clear and trustworthy information is hard to come by and even harder to distill amidst the chaotic chirps of my own hope and angst.
Along with wind and poplars, grass and leaves are losing their sheen, and the diversity among birds is disappearing from lake, tree, and sky. Meanwhile, heavy in the air of this human season, is the deceitful and blatant propaganda emanating from the occupant of the White House and his convention cronies. Total disregard for truth, utter absence of vision or policy other than Dear Leader’s personality, are all tinged with gushing hysteria aimed at exciting bigotries and fears. It seems so transparent and ugly to me, perhaps even to Rabia. But how many voters are blind to it? Will we have a blessed change in seasons or an extension of this one, more hideous than ever seen before? It seems impossible to discern.
Cameron Miller is a Geneva author and clergyperson. His latest book, a collection of poems and essays (some that first appeared in the FLT), was released in July: “Cairn, Poems & Essays.” He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org