With all the warm rainy days so far this year, the plants are in full growth mode. Wildflowers, especially in the milkweed and aster families, are blooming. Birds are busy, and it is hot and humid! The shift in season from Spring this year seems to have passed fairly quickly and with tremendous subtlety.
On the second (official) day of summer, I heard a loud chatter from behind me and saw a huge bird fly over and land on a nearby tree beside the creek. It had a large, almost black, head and its body was mostly the same color. It also had a wide white ring around its neck and throat, with some white on its belly. Before I could get my phone out for a photo, it flew further down the creek, out of range of my camera. I looked it up from its defining characteristics and low and behold… a Belted Kingfisher! It was a male, with no rust coloring on its breast. Feeding almost exclusively on aquatic life, namely small fish and crustaceans, it heralds a potentially biodiverse and healthy creek, which meanders through our property. With such a loud introduction, and both grace and speed, it fits in with a summer theme of expending lots of energy.
Of all the seasons for working outdoors, summer holds the most challenges physically, and it is a good reminder to slow down and watch what’s happening closely within the body. Burials can be especially tricky as the heavy physical labor, often throughout a sunny day, can wear a body out quite quickly, and sweating means that extra hydration is a must. Combined with buzzing insects, snakes, and poison ivy in abundance, self-management is one of the most important tasks to keep at the forefront of my mind.
On the flipside, because things are in full swing, plant identification is probably at its easiest in summer, meaning that it is a perfect time for invasive controls (assuming no rain) and for finding beautiful wildflowers while mowing or weed-eating an area. The seasons of the mind are no exception either: when strong habits and emotions get an opportunity to express themselves, I often feel quickly overwhelmed and exhausted. Self management – especially in a moment of reaction – requires a lot of skill and mindfulness. And yet, when these patterns are strongest, they are also clearer and easier to identify. With time, diligence, and care, we can work on weeding out these unwholesome states that we have identified and clear some space for the wholesome that we wish to cultivate.
And then sometimes, what flies chattering through our minds is something rare and beautiful, not unlike the kingfisher, that indicates that we are still at our core, alive, and well in this moment. Or, that we could be well in any moment if we give ourselves permission to pause, rest, and appreciate before going back to the business of our lives.
Like the flowing creek, so full of change, we have endless opportunities to be where we are, even as we move from one thing to another. Water teaches us to be more flexible and creative, and it offers us sustenance, coolness, and simple peace. Though the seasons don’t always turn in our favor, and summer can seem harsh and overwhelming – if we observe the nature that surrounds us, there is always something in this moment for which to be grateful.