Summer Sensations

Fri, 06/25/2021 - 1:30pm

It is beginning to feel a lot like summer. It has been a nice cool spring, but the warm, moisture-laden, humid air is upon us – summer air. Summer air is a mixed blessing. At its best, the radiant heat is warming and pleasant; our muscles are relaxed, ready to stretch, and energized for all manner of activities. Alas, summer air can also be doused with humidity that leaves us drenched with sweat at the littlest of exertions. Fortunately, summer breezes (unlike the fierce winds of winter) can touch our skin with relief.
There are many ways to experience the feel of July. At its core, going to the beach is a tactile experience. Can you remember the first time you discovered that black sand is hotter than white sand? How does it feel when you plunge, dive, or dunk your over-heated body into the ocean? Can you sense the warmth transferring to you when you lay your body out in your own molded depression in the sand? How about the sting of wind-driven sand on your ankles, or the delight of mud oozing around and massaging your bare feet at Andy’s Way? By the end of July, you may take these sensations for granted, but, in early July they are novel, or at least, suddenly remembered.
What are the other ways of physically feeling July and the on-coming summer? An early morning walk – or an evening walk – can leave your sneakers wet and your feet feeling clammy from the settling dew. Whether probing with hands or feet, or scraping with a skimmer shell or tines of a rake, digging for quahogs is all done by feel. A walk in the rain can feel welcome and refreshing. And, of course, there are also unpleasant sensations: sunburned skin, itchy poison ivy, blistered feet and sore muscles from too much sun and fun.
Not all feelings are tactile. Think of the thrill that you feel when on an early July evening you see a sudden streak of lightning or notice the glints of fireflies over a meadow or marsh. These are nature’s pyrotechnics; for me, they provide more thunderous wonder than any man-made attempt at awe.

There is the feeling of joy and reassurance when each wildflower blooms in succession throughout July (and the entire summer). Each week a new flower arrives on schedule and we renew our acquaintances with the blossom. It is not unlike the same pattern of renewed acquaintance that accompanies the succession of long-time summer visitors who arrive during the same week each summer. I have a 40-year friend who is here for each early July: she arrives on cue, just as do the Dorothy Perkins roses that lace the island’s stonewalls with rambles of red and pink.
And, there is the feeling of relief that July 4 – and thus summer – has finally started in earnest; along with the feeling of excitement that comes with the arrival of old friends, opportunities to make new friends, and long hours of daylight to enjoy the feel of summer.

The long summer days are discerned by all our senses, but July provides the opportunity (the need) to have more bare skin exposed to the elements than during any other month; and thus the sense of touch is more attuned in July than at any other time of year. What sensation will
you find in each of July’s micro-seasons? 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 season of one’s life, it is the rich assortment and accumulation of discrete flourishes that make the whole being – or the whole season.

Glinting fireflies and rambling roses: July 4 – July 8
Look for fireflies in early evenings among the marsh and meadow grasses or lower branches of shrubs and trees. The rambling roses that suddenly appear as a dappling along the stone walls are Dorothy Perkins roses, a cultivar that has naturalized beautifully on the island.
Silver hake and chicory appear: July 9 – July 13
Silver hake (a.k.a. whiting) is a smaller member of the cod family of fishes and can be found throughout the water column. So, whether fishing for summer flounder, bluefish, striped bass, or black sea bass you could hook a silver hake – don’t throw it back, it is a delicious and sustainable alternative to cod. Silver hake are arriving in island waters around the same time as chicory (a.k.a. ragged sailor on BI) is blooming blue on the landscape. The Ragged Sailor New Moon will occur on July 10.
Time of baby birds and elderberry: July 14 - 18
As a nest of baby birds reach adult size, the whole family of nestlings can no longer fit in the nest. By mid-July watch for very inept baby birds “hop-flying” around the yard and give them “wide-berth”: they are being fed and supervised on the ground by their parents, but usually can’t escape a prowling cat. As the young-of-the-year birds start to get the hang of flying you may see them around the blooming and fruiting elderberry bushes.
Softness: IO moth and rabbit-foot clover: July 19 - 23
Rabbit-foot clover will reach its peak blooming season during the third week of July, just in time to celebrate National Moth Week (July 17–25,2021). IO Moth is a common moth on the island at this time. The lowest tides, i.e. best tides for clamming, will occur between July 22 and 24.
Summer sun with snakes and black-eyed Susans: July 24 - 28
As the sun starts to bake the island landscape garter and northern brown snakes can be found taking shelter from the sun under flat-ish pieces of wood or among the stone walls. At the same time black-eyed Susans are stretching towards the sun and blooming with vigor. The Full Firefly Moon will occur on July 24; and, the Delta Aquarids Meteor Shower (July 12 to Aug. 23) will peak on July 28.
Horseshoe crab molts and dropping mulberry: July 29 – August 2
After a month of summer growth the shed molts of horseshoe crabs will dot the shores of the Great Salt Pond; and, mulberries (an early-ripening summer fruit) will drop to be eaten by birds and voles.
To share with others your favorite July sensation, join one of The Nature Conservancy’s daily programs starting June 28.

Go to for the weekly schedule.