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The beauty of crape myrtles in bloom help assuage somewhat the fierce, furnace-like heat of this July
Few plants give us what the Crape Myrtle does, a myriad of foliage colors in the spring, a virtual kaleidoscope of flower colors from summer into the fall, an array of fall leaf colors from all shades of red to golden yellows and purple, and finally (my favorite part, attractive exfoliating bark which becomes wonderfully apparent in the long shadows and low sun angle of winter.
From “The Introduction of Crape Myrtles in America”
You can’t go anywhere in Charleston in mid- summer without seeing crape myrtle trees on nearly every street.
Years ago in my journal, I wrote this: Along the streets of Charleston as I walk on my lunch hour break, I pass the bright pink and reddish clusters of delicate flowers on countless crape myrtle trees all over our city. They fill the streets of Charleston, New Orleans, and other Southern cities as well. I have been well acquainted with them since childhood. They are as distinctive a part of summer as fresh produce and summer flower gardens. They seem to be perpetually in bloom in summer, and that is why they are so popular. They are welcome splashes of color everywhere.
Crape myrtles are my favorite flowering trees. Others may have their softly pink cherry blossoms to admire, or white blossoms on apple trees. But those trees don’t grow here, while crape myrtles are everywhere to remind me of just how beautifully they transform our live-oak-studded, terribly hot and humid Lowcountry landscapes with their deeply saturated colors, which, when first seeing a particularly gorgeous specimen, almost takes your breath away.
To me, quite simply, crape myrtles in bloom are symbolic of summer.
But, how very different summers years ago seem to me now. I just got through looking at more alarming global warming headlines:
Florida ocean temps surge to 100 degrees as mass coral bleaching event is found in some reefs
Saguaro cactus collapsing in extreme Arizona heat, scientist says
”My life stopped”, local people say they lost all in Greece wildfires
It boggles the mind.
In decades past, I could write lyrically about summer, the season of carefree vacations and lazy days when ice-cold lemonade or Nehi grape soda were the cool drinks to savor sitting on the porch in midafternoon. Not anymore. Even with a ceiling fan whirring and abundant shade, porches are baking hot this summer as just about everywhere else outside.
This afternoon about quarter to five, after my dentist visit, I decided to walk a couple of square blocks in the historic district area of here my car was parked. “MIT was a few degrees cooler than last week.
“Oh, it’s not so terribly hot,” I thought to myself, and, with my high-tech, wide-brimmed sun reflector hat on, I found myself marveling at my endurance. And I took lots of photos of crape myrtles and old houses and gardens. It was actually pleasant for awhile.
Recalling that last week’s heat indices approached 107 degrees every day, I would not have thought of doing this. However, after about 20 minutes, I started feeling hot, and stepped up the pace back to my car. I got inside the interior furnace, quickly drank a bottle of water, turned up the AC high, and I was still hot and flushed. Finally, stopped in traffic briefly, I took out my fan-equipped spray bottle, misting my face and turning on the fan. Only then did I start cooking down.
In summers past this would have sounded absurd to me. But no longer. I know it’s because of my age that I don’t handle heat nearly as well as so used to, but this is weird, heavy-humid heat like I’ve never felt before. For the first time in my life I’m actually afraid to be outside in the unprecedented extreme heat in these and future summers of climate change.
The very heart of summer
Written on July 25, 2001
Summer is deep into itself now — mature, older, but not yet worn out. The earth is green and alive. Rain is a frequent visitor.
July reaches for a conclusion, and where do we find ourselves? Deep in the middle of the year, where lemonade dreams pour forth from sleepy minds on porches and verandas, on grassy lawns and in garden nooks, beneath singing mockers and squabbling jays, and on picnic benches by lazy rivers, everywhere but inside on an afternoon like this. Summer’s a time for daydreams, if you take the time.
Fresh breezes swirl from ceiling fans and, ah, yes, the garden provides a cool retreat after an afternoon of showers, for it was so hot.
This late summer day is just about done for now, the clouds lighter, the winds still. I saw the last rays of daylight peek from those same clouds and bathe an oak tree in warm, amber light, just for a little while. That rare light you don’t see often. It’s usually serendipitous. Night is much nearer now.
The other morning as I walked through the garden to my car on the way to work, I passed under a tall crepe myrtle which was full of small sparrows chirping with such happiness and delight that I was immediately drawn into the midst of that sound and swept up for mere seconds in a tiny, fleeting epiphany. And that was that life is good and beautiful. It was as if a sunbeam had suddenly emerged from the clouds and illuminated my path.
So here’s to the crape myrtle and summer memories when times were considerably more carefree than now.
The most beautiful blooms and colors of crape myrtles: