Every August the horse chestnut tree and the peacock loose their plumage. It never fails, not even, I see now, after a summer of drought.

The peacock molts his long tail feathers quickly. They drop in clumps within the span of a week. In fact, ours has one long feather remaining this morning where he had a full fan last Friday. If it’s not raining and muddy, we’re able to salvage most of them, gathering them up from the yard to keep them for the grandkids.

A peacock feather on the lawn.

The horse chestnut takes more time—about three weeks—but is just as thorough in its shedding. By the last week in August it’s completely bare, except for the remaining spiky nuts. They hang on until early winter.

The horse chestnut in our front yard begins to drop its leaves. By the end of August, it will be completely bare.

It’s a funny sight, that big, uninhibited lollypop tree completely naked before any of the other trees have even considered their annual undressing. The first time I noticed it, I thought the chestnut had died. Good thing I didn’t cut it down, because it’s now my favorite. When it blossoms each spring, its massive bouquets of flowers attract swarms of furry bumblebees and flocks of hummingbirds. For two weeks it buzzes and hums as if someone has hooked a ten-thousand-volt cable to it. I have the silly notion that the tree must really like that, because it seems in a hurry to get there again.

A beautiful morning, looking out from the horse chestnut.