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D. E. Steward
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Clouds like Montana, the Transvaal, Chihuahua, over the bicycle countryside from the high pressure of a cold front bumping an East Coast mass of South Atlantic heated air

Random distant lightning from soaring cumulus

Brassical swelling lifting in piles ridiculously lush and soft-
textured with brilliant fringes backlit by evening sun

Dust clouds like these off in the Lesser Antilles exploded from the Soufrière Hills, Plymouth on Montserrat destroyed and mostly buried in 1995 as the broken caldera lifted to 3,000 feet

Expanding gray doom-laden volcanic clouds

Cumulus towers with their white and gold heavenly aspect beguile

Under Sakurajima off Kyushu, the muttering orange-red flashes occluded by dust clouds threatened all night like an angry dog behind a flimsy fence

In the morning volcanic dust covered everything

Twelve time zones on around the world a lone spotted sandpiper feeding, preening, teetering on a gravel bar along the river, a week into August at the start of fall migration

A huge and brilliant robin moth, the cecropia, under a lightpost along a farther maple lane from the night before

Honey is a dark grayish yellow lighter than olivesheen

Climb the first Piedmont ridge the morning after and ride toward a full moon at sunup, with low humidity, just under 70°, still air

Perhaps the best bicycle morning of the whole summer

In the best bicycle month of all

Sun-warmed back, full self-shadow laid out ahead, pedals, crank, feet, trunk, helmet, knee lift, and whirring wheel weave song

The quiet mornings arrive in a processional chain

August, the serene month

When many things come clear through maturity in nature

The rowen month of second and third cuttings, of shortening days, meteor showers, and shorebird migration

An adulthood month

The rasp of cicadas comes already in August’s first week. Their ancient sound to last until the first deep chill

A profusion of cottontails, some summers they are everywhere

The small ones take weeks to learn when to freeze in place and when to run

Until they do, usually from a charging dog or stalking cat, they often sit a few yards away from quiet humans and old sleeping dogs thinking they are unseen

In the windless evenings they cut around gleefully in twos and threes on the edges of lawns and natural meadows

Just as they will if the lawns, roads, and asphalt disappear, and natural meadows grow again among the hardwoods, the windfalls, and the brush

In quieter times that will come down the line

A fledgling crow at the edge of the woods, just from the nest, squawk, squawk, a kind of throttled gurgly call

Ponder bringing it in to domesticate in the way Indians tamed crows to be high-perspective lookouts

An immature Carolina wren at noon gleaning on the woodpile

At mid-month the first fall-red Virginia creeper

First hint of color in the maples the next day along the road near a huge gang-mown forty-acre plain that’s more like an environmental piece celebrating the Great American Lawn than a battle site memorial

Left that way since hayfields were mown with sickles and scythes

Spurtles, fleams, and snaths

The pre-machine ergonomics of the stir, pierce, and heft eras

Sail by such old fields through banks of warm August ground fog

That condenses on forearm hairs

Drops lift off to fall back on the sweaty arms’ skin in tiny supercooled blips

As if it is baraka hanging in the summer air’s shoals from those who worked here long past

In their linsey-woolsey smocks and cowhide brogans

Who had fine skills of adjusting, assembling, and repair with hand tools like spurtles, fleams, and snaths

And the high sky and oak-green hills go on and on

The mildness of sensation on tingling arms is the same awareness

Through August mornings

A ground cricket, gryllidine bounce and energy racing up through shin hairs, move it to hand and it courses around fingers and thumb

Gold-green carapace, mocha brown around its head, extremely long and thin antennae

Black crickets and Jerusalem crickets are out and about now too

All crickets often seem to rest head down on vertical surfaces

Cricket black against a melon yellow wall

Melon a moderate orange yellow, redder, lighter, stronger than deep chrome yellow

Bright chartreuse yellow varies, most often is a strong greenish yellow, lighter and stronger than chartreuse yellow

The piles of cumulus in the heat of sunny afternoons are lit dramatically across this horizon and beyond the curve of earth

They rise before the awesome, ringing welkin, and then darken as the sun drops to dusk


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