There was meaning behind the sight of the lightning bug drifting lazily across the evening sky.
It was a sign.
Throughout March we anxiously await the first signs of spring to tell us that winter’s long, cold grip has finally started to release. Peepers calling from a pond, robins searching for worms and a gobbler sounding off in the woods are all signs of spring that I look for each year.
But what about signs of summer?
They are out there, and they’re just as welcome as the springtime reminders.
Blooms of wild blue phlox growing along a rural dirt road.
Recently hatched turkey poults following their mother through a hayfield, learning how to peck insects from the grass.
A young fawn curled up beneath the ferns deep in the shade of the forest.
Dragonflies emerging out of the water in a secluded swamp, ready to patrol the skies for the summer months.
The signs of summer are often taken for granted because they don’t necessarily represent the passing of a season — winter — that we all grow tired of. No one is as anxious to see spring pass as they are winter, so perhaps the different sights, sounds and smells that come with summer are overlooked.
But they shouldn’t be. The signs of summer are just as vital in nature as those of spring.
A full forest canopy shades the ground below, offering a respite from the heat and helping to keep streams cool.
Succulent new growth sparked by the summer heat allows deer and other wildlife to begin to fatten up again after a long winter.
Signs of summer can also mean new life.
A snapping turtle laying its eggs in loose soil where they will incubate under the hot sun.
The nests of bass and panfish begin to overflow with fry, serving as a crucial link in the aquatic food chain and replenishing populations.
Still, there are signs of summer that serve no other purpose than a chance to relax and unwind.
Hiking the shaded trails in Ricketts Glenn State Park.
Floating in a jonboat on the mirror-like surface of a farm pond while casting for bass.
Spending an afternoon in a farm field with a varmint rifle waiting for a woodchuck to rise up from the grass.
Seeing endless rows of tender corn sprouts emerging from the soil of a recently planted field.
Hearing the buzz of a hummingbird as it makes countless trips to a nectar-filled feeder.
While the signs of summer offer plenty of sights and sounds, the smells are just as plentiful.
The fragrant blooming flowers of a honeysuckle growing in the bright sunlight along the edge of a field.
A field of fresh cut hay curing in the sun.
The stagnant water of a beaver pond as it warms with the longer days.
And like every season, not all of the signs of summer are welcome.
Pollen and allergies.
Mosquitoes and flies.
Heat and drought.
But in the end, I would take all of those things over the signs of winter — snow, cold, ice and slush to name a few.
It won’t be long before the signs of summer give way to signs of fall, but why rush things?
After the hard winter that wildlife, and us, endured, it’s time to appreciate a few months of easy living in the outdoors and appreciate the signs of summer.