Summer on the Greenway is such a fast-moving, blink-and-you-may-miss-it extravaganza of life. Every week there are new flowers blooming and new sounds to be heard, from dickcissels returning from their winter homes to the south, to katydids chirring in the grass and cicadas buzzing up in the trees.
There are predictable patterns to the progression, with Wild Quinine flowering before the Purple Coneflower, which flowers before Gray-headed Coneflower, Tall Coreopsis, and so forth. When I noticed the finely-frilled Illinois Bundleflower leaves near the Birds in Flight, I backtracked to where a patch of Partridge Pea normally grows to see if it had also made an appearance (it had, though small enough that I had overlooked its low sprouts when I first passed).
Although the general sweep of the season is predictable, it is spiced with the seemingly arbitrary daily occurrences one encounters. Why is this Wild Quinine plant swarming with flies, beetles, bees and ants when the next dozen along the trail are completely devoid of insect life? What in the world caused the variegation on that Milkweed’s leaves? Why is one morning filled with birdsong when the next is silent? Are those Asters–in June?! Sometimes answers can be found with additional research or observation. Sometimes they remain mysteries.
What fun would it be walking a trail day after day, week after week, if everything was always as expected? For every time I encounter a tiny baby snapping turtle crossing the trail, there are twenty trips where I see no herps at all. I may know that I am more likely to see them in overcast, drizzly conditions, but there are no guarantees. Same goes for butterflies, birds, bees–I can try to time my jaunts for when I may see whatever my target is at the moment, but I regularly come away empty-handed (if one can consider a couple hours walking out in the world empty-handed).
The world is full of patterns and surprises. Just another reason to get outside and enjoy it as the seasons go by.
Originally published in Sycamore Greenway Friends.