Indiana summer evenings are the luxury of living in the Midwest. Having lived at the foot of the Blue Ridge mountains I’ve seen sunsets turn the rumpled green hills into an ocean of purple and orange, and although I do still miss that horizon sometimes, August dusk here is something that nearly defies adjectives. Especially on a farm lush with corn and beans and stands of milkweed.
As the sun settles low across the field it illuminates the sunflowers, warming the red and butterscotch petals, spider webs glow as if they’ve turned on the porchlight, and the scarlet dinner plate hibiscus becomes backlit like a moulin rouge stage. The fields shush, the grass softens, the chickens gather their littles in for a quiet night.
I’ve spent hours on my friend’s farm, photographing flowers, moss, bugs, birds, and stars. There’s a pair of mated Sandhill cranes that call the farm home, and I’ve taken pictures of their footprints in the muddy swale of a waterway and video of them tossing fallen corn husks into the air as they call to each other. They are the kids in the neighborhood, raucous and tireless, and the last ones to head in before dark.
Sundown is slower on an Indiana farm; it feels like a deep exhale and the sweet, honied scent of corn sweat floats over the still air. My friends cruise the farm on their golf cart every night and when I’m there I tag along. The ride sometimes takes a couple of hours as there’s always something wonderful to discover, uncover, examine up close.
Low-hanging sour cherries ripen gradually down the branch, and I have to earn the sweet, bright taste through trial and error. Finding monarch butterfly eggs requires patience and a strong back as I crouch and duck walk, carefully checking the undersides of milkweed leaves for pinhead-sized signs of future generations. The cicadas’ warble stretches across the field like a flyfishing cast, and the peach-colored sky is layered with flat-bottomed clouds racing along the horizon, reminding me of a girl on a bicycle with her hair trailing out behind her.
My hands are stained from dirt and tomatoes, my hair is prickly with bits of broken-off flower stems and burrs, I smell like mint and sunblock. The pockets of my shorts hold various seed pods and nuts, and there’s a fresh scratch along my cheekbone where a raspberry bush tried to capture me and fold me into its barbed arms. My forehead is sun pinked and warm and there’s a praying mantis on my leg.
All this wonder, all this nature flows through me, a Midwest summer girl on a Midwest summer night, barefoot, mosquito-bitten, full up with joy. It’s in these green gilded hours of summer that I let wonder permeate my bones and stuff my senses full, like a squirrel preparing for winter. I empty my pockets into an envelope and file it in my spring seed box, but I keep the feel and sound and smell of summer close to me, right against my skin. There will be nothing in the gray snow of January that my summer soul cannot forgive.