Summer skies are most idyllic when clad in puffs of gray…too oft-washed eiderdown and cotton flannel tinged with traces of navy socks and denim in the laundry.  But those are the days that are clean and breathable, rinsed with stream-scented galloping breezes.  Eyes unsquint in the gentler light of day, free of tiresome scorching glare.  The air moves and carries freshness down from tree canopy, setting the sociable leaves murmuring and remarking about the break in oppressive weather.  Somehow the sky seems higher, less pressing than the persistent and insipid blue dome crowned with late summer sun.

I gaze at those smudged newsprint clouds through a tangle of green, one that has reached its zenith in the August heat.  It all looks a bit tired, the frenzied growth has slowed as the pent-up energy of winter has run its course, and the glossy newness of spring is dusted with a fine powdering of pollen…and probably meteor snow, ashes of far-flung furnaces.  These overcast moments exist solely in the cool end of the spectrum, save for shocking pink and neatly spiraled rose of sharon blossoms.  They unfurl into wafting crepe petal skirts and pop with magenta on celadon, northern mirrors of their tropical kin, hibiscus.  I spy another shade of crimson further along the stream, fronds of some seaweed I am unable to name, stripped of their foliage in the busy water, they blush scarlet, standing out against moss and slate as if aware that they swim naked in the bubbling cold.

Wading in the perpetually icy current, my toe makes abrupt contact with a serrated outcrop of shale.  I reflexively curse under my breath as a thin eddy of blood swirls and then promptly dissipates, but it doesn’t really hurt.  Certainly not enough to thwart a search for salamanders and crayfish.  Gingerly, I lift flat sedimentary rock to peer beneath, hoping to catch a glimpse of these reclusive souls.   They signal healthy water, wending a sinuous and time-worn path back to the lake.

The breeze grows more insistent, stripping loose bark from an overhanging sycamore and sending it sailing, like tawny brittle rafts downstream.  Slender willow leaves fly free, turning like feathers in the wind.  Subtly shifting light tells me its time to go.  Perhaps dissatisfied with gentle suggestions, a fat raindrop plunks me on the nose, hastening my retreat up the craggy bank.  I pause to retrieve a fragment of that smooth sycamore skin, and scrawl a note before sending it along with its brethren.  A few words, floating in a world that cares not for such human trifles.  This draws a smile, and I gather my now rain-soaked sweatshirt around me.  I watch my poem go, dipping into dark water, before turning to slip-slide my way up the hill.

Coffee.  No…tea.  Hibiscus.

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