August is…

“August is the year at early harvest, a farm wife with a baby napping in the crib, a preserving kettle on the stove, fryers in the freezer, new potatoes in the pot, and a husband in the hayfield baling the second cutting. August is tomatoes ripening and the insistent note of the cicada punctuating the heat of midafternoon. August is the smell of corn pollen, and the taste of roasting ears, and the stain of blackberry juice on the fingers.

August is the flame of phlox in the dooryard and hollyhocks down by the roadside blooming now up at their tips. August is Summer squash by the bushel, and Winter squash swelling beneath the broad parasol of trailing leaves. August is ripe oats. August is a languid river and a springhouse brook reduced to a trickle.

August is a few impatient asters trying to compete with late daisies; it is daylilies all through blooming and looking ragged and outworn; it is the first sprays of goldenrod in the uncut fence row. August is baby rabbits almost grown, and pilfering in the garden; it is fledglings all feathered and on the wing; it is a cow, her Spring calf forgotten, chewing a leisurely cud in the shade of a tired elm tree at the side of the meadow.

August is the heavy grapes in the vineyard, and the lacy leaf where the Japanese beetle feasted in metallic glitter; it is wild grapes festooned on the trees at the riverbank; it is algae on the pond and the fat green thumbs of cattails in the swamp, and ironweed purpling, and vervain in full bloom. August is a hastening sun, earlier to bed and later to rise. August is Summer thinking of the cut and color of her Autumn costume.” – Hal Borland, Sundial of the Seasons, 1964

12 thoughts on “August is…”

  1. Thanks for sharing this wonderful writing. Have you quoted him before? It seems I remember saying the same thing to myself last time: “I have to find this book!”

  2. Just got back from the library…They have three or four Hal Borland first editions! I’ll start with “Homeland, A report from the country” (1964). Thanks, Laura!

  3. Any writer who can make me beleive that August is not the most useless month of the year is a very good writer. I mean, it’s hot, and also hot, and it doesn’t even have any good holidays…

  4. He makes August sound so lovely….the number of Augusts I have spent dying from heat and humidity in Dover NJ and NYC lead me to a different set of conclusions about August…but I like his take much better! The man has a way with words!

  5. What wonderful writing! Thanks for posting this beautiful piece. That’s an August I haven’t known for many a year. I’m going to try to write a version for the desert.

  6. I’ve been posting Hal Borland quotes on the first of the month for a while – Sundial of the Seasons is a sort of naturalist’s *day book* and I really enjoy his intros to each month. I love the last line of the this one, “August is the Summer thinking of the cut and color of her Autumn costume”.

    His books are kind of hard to find at the libraries here. I’ve ordered a few of them from out-of-print booksellers on the net and have given many as gifts. People really seem to connect with what he has to say. He had a column for many years in the NY Times before my day.

    Glad to be able to share his writing with others. Years ago, someone on a web birding forum posted a quote of his and I’ve been hooked ever since!

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