For a Northern transplant like myself the heat in Georgia
Can be oppressive. Vangie never seems to mind;
Her body eases into the humid evening, her olive skin glistens and
Seems to absorb the warmth as if storing it up for the winter.
To be fair, she certainly doesn’t operate as well in the cold as I,
Yet I am still always jealous of the Southern penchant for
Slowing down and accepting the harsh, damp heat.
Being outside is a way of life here, and she and I have taken
To enjoying our evening meals on our back porch.
Tonight, though, the sweltering heat is approaching excessive.
And, though she is satisfied to stay where she is, I am sorely
Tempted to go back inside, into the cool air conditioned house.
However, the sound of the breeze blowing through the leaves
And the smell of the charcoal smoldering—combined with the
Gentle sigh of my southern princess as she relaxes in her chair and
Sips her icy drink from a thick sweaty glass—all beckon me to stay.
So, I resolve to endure it, bearing the drops of sweat I feel on my brow
And the stickiness of my shirt against the Adirondack chair.
She, knowing my struggle, smiles patiently and speaks in her
Exquisite Southern inflection. “Maybe some of our friends will
Come for a visit,” she says, referring, perhaps, to the Carolina
Chickadees, the Tufted Titmice, the Northern Cardinals, and the
Eastern Towhees who gorge themselves on the sunflower seeds
We replenish in the feeder after the bulk are eaten or emptied
Onto the ground by the Titmice where the Towhees wait patiently.
They play in the wildflowers sown by her and splash in the cool water
Of the birdbath under the shady bushes.
Or, perhaps she is thinking of the Ruby Throated Hummingbirds
Who buzz by our deck like giant bees. They always startle me and
I duck and swat the air around my head instinctively, but they just
Laugh as they zoom off into the trees, their bellies full of the sugary
Nectar they need to keep their tiny wings whirring. Or maybe she’s
Thinking of the wild rabbits and chipmunks scavenging for scraps
Left over by the birds, or the mischievous squirrels who fight and
Scurry around the corn cake fastened to an old board by a single screw.
The squirrels can be especially aggravating, relentlessly raiding
The bird feeder or digging up the petunias and coleus chosen and placed
With care in the places they would receive just the right amount of sun.
Yet, even at their most puckish their silliness is endearing as they leap
Fearlessly among the branches, nearly falling as they chase one another.
One of them has been known to come up to our porch and lay out
On his belly along the handrail, resting his head and hanging his little
Legs from the side as if posing for a painting—as if the house was
His own private mansion and he was taking a break after a hard day.
“Yes,” I respond. “I am sure we will see them all today.”
And we are not disappointed. As the evening wears, our companions
Come and go just as neighbors used to walk by after supper and say “hello”
To folks resting on their porches. Suddenly, during a lull a newcomer appears.
Landing sharply on the shepherd’s hook, he bears his slender build with
Dignity, standing tall and proud; his long tail pointed straight to the ground,
His wings and back striped buff and brown, his head crowned with a regal
Rounded crest, and his breast proudly displaying a brilliant yellow.
“Where did you come from?” I ask the Great Crested Flycatcher.
And he regards us for a moment as if letting us admire his beauty
Before disappearing into the trees as suddenly as he appeared.
Caught up in the moment, Vangie and I turn to one another.
“I’ve never seen one,” I say to her. And I consider that just a
Few minutes ago I had contemplated going inside to escape the heat.
It hasn’t diminished, nor have I gotten used to it. And, even now
For a moment, a part of me longs to go inside, take a shower, and
Sit in the cool, clean air. Yet…despite the heat and damp, the birds continue
Their singing, and the creatures their playing and I turn to Vangie and say
“I wonder who we’ll meet next.”