With help from a yard crew, we cleared some ropy vines from the base of our oaks this summer. A few dead strands still hang from the upper branches, motionless on most afternoons, like the pendulums of clocks that no longer keep the time.
Sometimes, scanning the tree canopy from the backyard, I fool myself into thinking that time itself has stopped, though other things tell me the season is moving on. Mowing the lawn the other evening, I noticed that shadows were arriving faster to darken the grass. The days grow incrementally shorter, dusk dropping its curtain more quickly as I move from chore to chore. I barely made the last round with the mower before the light vanished completely, the shed black as a cave when I stowed the machine and headed in for supper.
Darkness has started to linger more in the mornings, too, the sun not as eager to start its day now that September is here. I rely more on the alarm clock now to tell me when it’s time to rise.
Last week, the dawn still faint at 6 a.m., I parted the bedroom curtains and noticed the patio getting slick with moss, although we’d scoured the courtyard when summer began. Weeks of rain and sun had done their mischief, a thin film of green spreading over the hard, red paving where we sit and grill. A man came and power-washed the brick to its bright crimson complexion, scrubbing the porch stoop, too.
But in a warm and rainy place like Louisiana, such victories are always temporary. A homeowner stages his little holding actions, as if bailing a boat in a storm, hoping he’ll eventually float to the dry shore of autumn. Over coffee each morning, I glance at the garden hose near the porch, which often rests unmoved for long stretches as the afternoon rains do its work. The hose lies coiled near the coneflowers most days, like a serpent sunning on a log.
Everyone in this part of the world tolerates rainy days with a deep sense that things could be worse. The tropical storms and hurricanes that dominate the headlines this month are proof enough of that.
A couple of weekends ago, hunting for snails to stock his terrarium, our teenage son learned that they’re easiest to see right after a rain. The skies opened after lunch, and as the downpour dwindled, he headed outside, looking beneath the arbor, on the underside of old lumber, overturning a few rocks. He bagged four specimens within minutes, fussing over them like Faberge eggs as he released them into a big glass jar filled with soil and sand, gravel and ferns. A bit of broccoli and banana made a hearty supper for his new pets.
I wondered, watching the snails in their warm, moist jar, who was living in the wetter world — them or us.