We haven’t needed an alarm clock at our house this summer to rouse us from bed. The blue jays wake us up each morning shortly after dawn with a ruckus we can’t ignore.
Blue jays are among the most handsome birds, but nature keeps them humble with a voice no decent creature would envy. I’ve compared the sound to a rusty hinge, and when it’s multiplied by a flock of jays jabbering in unison, the effect is like a hundred creaky doors screaming for oil.
Blue jays have always been common in this part of the world — so common, in fact, that when John James Audubon visited Louisiana in 1821, he noted the use of poison among farmers to keep the population in check.
But while I’ve grown accustomed over the years to spotting one or two or even three jays outside when I part the curtains, the past weeks have brought a multitude. They perch like gargoyles on the gutter near the roof, play trapeze on the backyard vines, gather along the rim of the patio fountain as if massed for a riverside baptism. I have no idea where they all came from.
The jays seem as mystified as I do by the presence of so many of their kind — and more than a little irritated at having to share their space with a colony of relatives. The squawking, as riotous as cable news, begins at sunup and continues off and on until dark.
Lacking any clear theory on the surge in jays, I’ve chalked it up to the almost militant plenitude that, in ways large and small, touches every Louisiana summer. The season seems oversized, overgrown, uncontainable, which is part of its wonder and most of its challenge.
As the school year closed in May, we trimmed the backyard arbor, the arched entrance to the garden groomed barber-close. Last month, I noticed that the vines had fully rebounded in a matter of weeks, the passage so woolly that I had to walk sideways to squeeze through.
Out came the pruning shears to tame it once again, although not for the last time, I suspect, before fall.
Summer here has an almost operatic scale, as I’m reminded each July when Washington Parish watermelons arrive at our neighborhood grocery. There’s not enough room to store them all in the produce section, so they rest near the shelves of neighboring aisles, like livestock escaped from their pen.
Because my wife adores watermelon, I lugged one home last week — a huge hog of a thing that she methodically dismembered, until all that remained on the kitchen counter were the halves of the divided rind, each hollowed out as cleanly as a dugout canoe.
Summer’s pleasures are big pleasures, but for all their ragged resilience, they’re not eternal. Although a season this big seems unconquerable, the calendar tells me otherwise. Soon, I’ll wonder where my Louisiana summer has gone.