Dry August, arid, warm,
Doth harvest no harm.
– Farmer’s Almanac
The crops have headed out. Summer begins to retreat.
My good friend Elva, a Newfoundlander, uses a term to refer to the quality of the air. Her daughter, my good friend Allison, relayed it thus: “the air has no dryth to it,” meaning it was too dampish for clothes to dry properly on the line.
Saskatchewan’s August air is rarely lacking in dryth. This year has been something of an exception, with much more rain than we’re used to in August. The grass is as green as in June. It’s odd, actually. Usually grass this time of year has a yellowish cast to it. The other night, after two days of soaking wet and cold weather, I was driving somewhere with my brother. It was near dusk, the rain had finally cleared, and it was a strange sort of night. “It looks like June and feels like October,” I remarked. The cast of the sun was at odds with the brilliant green grass, and there was no August heat to speak of. It was a very in-betweenish sort of evening, as if it didn’t quite know to which season it belonged.
It was an anomaly, though. Within a day or two, the normal August weather was back. Hot. Dry. But more than sight or sensation, the month of August for me is characterised by sound. August is a month of sibilance. Sibilance is exactly what it sounds like: sssss sounds. The dictionary defines it as “characterised by a hissing sound.” Grasshoppers, the wind soughing through the ripe crops, the slight rattle of the flax heads, the whispering wheat fields, the rustling grasses – these are the sounds of the dry days of late summer. All the sibilance is set against a vocal backdrop of crickets…cricketing. What is the way to describe cricket noises? I never was very good with onomatopeia. These are the sounds of the prairie in the drying days of August, and there is nothing so Saskatchewan as that soundtrack. If you have ever heard it, you know what I mean.
For me, though the weather has been wet, August has been a drought creatively. It’s gone past and I feel like I have nothing to show for it. I barely touched my camera all month. I found it difficult to write about anything. I’ve gone through my days as if in a mist, just existing. There are reasons for this – a good friend of mine passed away, I’ve been sick, work has been busy, and so on. But I’ve also learned that creativity comes in fits and starts, in ebbs and flows, and it’s better to ride the swells without resisting than force something out that isn’t real.
The other night, for the first time in weeks, I felt the urge to go for a walk in the hills, and I took my camera. I captured the beautiful light and felt the familiar heart-swelling. I listened to the sibilance all around me and knew that the drying days of my soul were coming to their end, this time around anyway. The crops have ripened. It’s harvest time, and I am a harvest girl.