June is a Scented Month
There will come a day in June when, upon leaving your house, you will be greeted with a wall of moisture-laden air permeated with the smell of roses. June is a scented month. It can also be a month punctuated with bouts of fog.
The collision of warming air over the ocean, still cool from winter, will produce fantastic fog around and above the island in June. Sometimes it burns off quickly in the morning, especially if there is a little breeze to send it on its way. Sometimes it lingers on the west side while it disappears at the beach, and then trades places, leaving the beachgoers chilled and the hikers in Rodman’s Hollow suddenly steaming. Sometimes the fogs of June wait offshore in great gray banks that can be seen like distant hills. Often, it is a cat-and-mouse game of predictions as descending and lifting patches of fog skirt around, and over, the island’s landscape. You never know quite when and where the fog will envelope your plans. The closest you can get to a truism about June’s fog, is that if heavy morning fog does not lift by noon, it is not likely to clear that day, or, if it does lift in early afternoon it is not likely to last for more than an hour or two.
But it is the moisture droplets in the air that hold the scent of the month’s blooming roses and creates a day that is lightly perfumed, and nearly irresistible.
The June precession of roses starts with the end of the beach plum blooms (wow, it has been a great year for those flower-laden branches in the Rose family), and then the emergence of extensive mats of beach roses covering the dunes and other sandy places. Next comes multiflora rose. Yes, this is an aggressive invasive species that is battled year-round in your yard and fields. Its prolific thorny vines climb over any stone wall, tree, or shrub and creates a near impenetrable tangle. But, for one brief ten-day period in June it presents as large gauzy drapes of white flowers that hang on the native plants as if they were cloth-covered treasures in the attic. When the shroud of multiflora rose is at its most massive – and before it starts snowing rose petals – it is also producing an enchanted fragrance that saturates the air. The final wave of June roses comes with the blooming of pasture rose late in June. More subtle than both beach rose and multiflora rose, pasture roses can be found throughout the island from field edges to roadsides. If you see a light pink blooming rose with small frilly, toothed leaves, a faint scent, and attended to by a buzzing bee you are likely seeing the native pasture rose.
There are, of course, other scents that mark the month of June. Take the Clay Head Trail path from the parking area to the beach and notice when the fecund odor of the damp, muddy pond edge changes to the distinctive smell of salt, sand and sea. At other beaches, that familiar smell of the beach will mix with a hint of sunscreen – a sure sign that June and summer has arrived. Another June aroma is that of freshly mown and baled hay.
To celebrate June, take at least one walk in thick fog, and in silence (no talking, no headphones etc.) and let the droplets of moisture accumulate on wisps of hair, eye brows and eye lashes etc., and – as if sampling a new wine – inhale the bouquet of the air.
In this year-long series of monthly articles I have taken to heart the truth that each season is not a three-month period but rather a continuum of micro-seasons (each about five days long) that more specifically express the varied nature of any season. Like the seasons of one’s life, it is the rich assortment and accumulation of discrete flourishings that make the whole being – or the whole season.
The long June days of summer are discerned by all our senses, but, most especially by the sense of smell. The molecules of sand, salt, hay and roses are steeped in fog, thus magnifying their fragrance and their allure. What scent in each of June’s
microseasons will pique your sense of wonder?
Rose Covered Dunes and Morning Song:
June 4 – June 8
The parade of June roses, begins with the waning of beach plum blossoms (a member of the rose family), and bursts into a full glory of great mats of white, pink, and magenta beach roses (Rosa rugosa) overlaying the dunes. This also begins the time of intense morning song – the daylight chorus of birds waking to greet the day.
Time of Turtle Eggs:
June 9 – June 13
Watch out for turtles on the roads. When the island’s bountiful population of painted turtles are not sunning themselves on rocks along the edge of ponds, the females may be on the move looking for dry soil in which to lay their eggs. The New Turtle Moon on June 10 could also be the peak of horseshoe crab spawning and egg laying.
June 14 - 18
As the days grow longer and warmer the grass is growing at warp speed. Now is the only time of year to see color and movement
of grass. Look closely and notice how beautiful and varied the heads of ripening grass seed are: mauve and maroon , almost pinkish in color, while they ripple and undulate with each puff and wave of wind. Occasionally the swaying line of movement in the ripening hay field is due to the passing of a hen pheasant and her following brood of chicks. This is also the time when you can be startled by sunning garter snakes along a rock wall.
June 19 - 23
As nights get shorter, the time for moths – many of which are night fliers – reduces. Take care not to leave outside lights on all night; moths should be feeding and mating at night, not bumping around your door lamp. The Summer Solstice will occur on June 20th at 11:32 p.m. And, if you are up late looking for moths you may notice some shooting stars overhead; they will be from the little-known Bootid Meteor Showers (June 22 – July 2).
Pasture Rose Blooming:
June 24 - 28
While pasture roses will enter their peak blooming time, the Full Pasture Rose Moon will rise on June 25 at 9:45 p.m.-ish. And during this last week of June the island will be glowing green. The last shrubs of bayberry will finally be fully leafed out, and everywhere you look will be solidly green.
Black Sea Bass Congregation:
June 29 – July 3
As the island passes into July, Black Sea Bass will be abundant in the island’s shoreline waters. This species range has increased with climate change and is now an angler’s “can’t miss.” With the flood of sand eels and other bait fish into the New Harbor the sound of terns squealing and chattering overhead will be commonly heard, and the scent of freshly cut hay will be wafting over the long days and short nights.
To share with others your discoveries of June’s subtle fragrances, watch for notices – and join one – of The Nature Conservancy’s walks and programs, including Horseshoe Crab surveys, and daily programs starting the last week of June 28.