‘At Random’ Danny Heitman: In Louisiana, the summer will not be tamed | Danny Heitman
Larry, who helps us with household chores, is an Air Force veteran with a deep love for order, which puts him at odds with our great sycamore, a dissolute tree that refuses to be spared.
Like all sycamores, it drops hundreds of leaves as large as fall catcher’s mittens in early winter. Sycamore is also a neglected tree in summer, which loses bark on the lawn.
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Larry tries to keep things tidy by raking the bark into little mounds around the base of the sycamore, but the old tree’s shameful habit of stripping is impossible to reform. As soon as its leaves are plucked from the grass, the tree loses even more bark, and the yard soon looks like the aftermath of a ticker-tape parade.
I’ve learned not to worry, perhaps resigned to the idea that summer is a messy season, its dark magic drawn from a refusal to be tamed. Other signs of disarray visit us every year when the weather gets hot.
Dill in our herb garden was chewed by caterpillars bright yellow and black. We saw caterpillars luxuriously lunch at noon, hang like earrings stems. The other night, when I brought an empty bottle in the recycling bin, I noticed that the caterpillars continued to eat, eat, eat in the light of a full moon, fat as hams in a showcase Butcher.
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My wife doesn’t mourn the loss of dill, thinking the caterpillars need it more than we do for the occasional sprigs we throw on grilled catfish. Dill is a favorite for caterpillars that turn into swallowtail butterflies. Considering the stress on butterfly populations, the sight of these voracious creatures is heartening.
I thought it deeper by reading an advance copy of “Graceland, At Last,” a collection of Margaret Renkl tests due out next month. From his home in Nashville, Tennessee, Renkl writes a weekly column for The New York Times, which deals with life in the South, including our flora and fauna. Renkl notes the strong worldwide decline in pollinators, with about 40% of these pollinators endangered.
My household dill buffet won’t solve the problem, but we do offer it every year to help push the needle in the right direction.
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In southern Louisiana, summer can bring the savagery of the season to our doorstep – and sometimes, through it. As I put the house to bed the other night, I opened our back door to lock the screen and found a salamander in the doorway waiting to enter.
There were a few moments of slapstick as he rushed down the hall and I grabbed him with a towel, leading him back to the backyard for his night of hunting.
Such is summer in this part of the world. As school starts in a few days, it looks like we’ve outlived another one.