Tag Archive 'summer'

Jun 26 2016

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Daisies

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daisiesDaisies. Such ubiquitous wildflowers. You find them in clearings in the woods, open fields, or anywhere there is ample sunlight. Summer is in full swing when they start to bloom, so is it any surprise that so many of us associate them with happiness?

There are domesticated varieties, of course. I planted some daisy mums in front of my old place years ago and they took over my garden. Pretty, yes. Dainty, no. Give them half a chance and they’ll grow just about anywhere.

The other day as I was weed-whacking the drainage ditch in my front lawn, I noticed that a patch of daisies had taken root there. I steered clear of them. I let them do their thing, adding a little floral delight to the greenery.

Like so many other wildflowers, daisies gravitate to marginal areas. The other day I found them growing near the entrance to a nearby woodlot where I like to walk. Their carousel of bright white petals is an endless smile. They strike me as nature’s welcome mat – ambient to say the least.

My wife prefers daisies to roses. My kind of gal. Roses are aromatic and elegant, no doubt, but daisies shout a different kind of beauty into the world – a beauty accessible to everyone and not easily diminished.

We are well into the growing season now and this humble wildflower is everywhere. The simple, earthy pleasures of this time of year are manifest in daisies. I’m no mindless optimist, nor do I readily engage in frivolity, but the world seems less dour to me whenever daisies are in full bloom. One look at them and my soul takes flight. Silly me.

 

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Jul 21 2015

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High Summer

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SummerFlowersEven though temps haven’t reached into the 90s yet here in northern Vermont, the daisies and black-eyed susans in full bloom along roadsides, as well as in my garden, make it clear what time of year it is. The early blooming day lilies in my front yard are on their way out, along with any remnant of spring. It is summertime, replete with thunderstorms, mosquitoes, and that fecund smell wafting through the window at dusk – the smell of happy vegetation at the end of a long, hot day.

I suck down as much water as I can during my book-hunting road trips. I keep the car windows rolled down whenever it’s not raining, so that I can bask in the hot, dry wind. Camped overnight in the Green Mountain National Forest between book sales, I listened to coyotes singing at dusk, the hoot of a great horned owl at midnight, and blue jays at dawn. I swerved around a turkey crossing the road in early morning, and spotted deer in open fields as made my rounds in southern Vermont and New Hampshire. Even while immersed in a work-a-day mindset, the wildness that runs amok in midsummer gets my attention. It’s hard to miss.

Back home between road trips, I work at my desk in shorts and a t-shirt, occasionally wandering around my back yard whenever I need a break from the computer screen. The grass is thick this year, thanks to all the rain we’ve been getting. My wife Judy loves this green carpet. I’m not quite as enthusiastic about it, especially when I’m sweaty from having just mowed. My yard often resembles a cut hay field.

Circumstances have nixed my backpacking plans this year, but I find myriad ways to enjoy the season regardless. High summer – what’s not to like? The first fresh fruits and vegetables are out, the birds sing every morning, and the sun blazes at midday in a way that makes dark winter thoughts impossible. Why not revel in it?

 

 

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Aug 05 2013

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Late Summer on the Brook

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late summer brookA few days ago I went to a favorite brook to do a little fly fishing. Trout season had opened three and a half months earlier. I hadn’t been out yet. An outing was long overdue.

My dog Matika was with me, of course. When I grabbed her leash, she knew it was going to be a good day.

It mattered little whether or not I’d actually catch fish. Like Matika, I just wanted to sniff around. Yeah, the smell of the forest and the sound of cool, clear water tumbling through it is reason enough to be on a stream.

A mountain brook in late summer charms a guy like me in a way that is difficult to describe. My mind empties as I scramble from one promising riffle to another, stalking the wild trout, until suddenly I am face-to-face with unspeakable beauty: a flume, overhanging cliff, waterfall, or some deep, quiet pool that I must show my wife Judy someday. Then a hungry mouth splashes towards my fly, yanking me out of my reverie.

I’m not a very good fisherman. The rising trout usually catches me by surprise. I am easily distracted by the call of a thrush in the distance, the rustle of a forest creature in the nearby understory, or a wildflower blooming along the rocky bank where only moss should grow.

Two small trout landed in my lap despite my best efforts, not because of them. Then I meandered up the brook a while longer, rod in hand but no longer fishing, in search of god-only-knows-what. Deep within lies some vague desire to walk the brook for no reason at all. Sometimes I give into it.

I quit the stream around midday, hiking through the forest to the nearest road then daydreaming back towards the car. No doubt other motorists were cursing me as I slowly made my way home. Under the influence of the wild, I shouldn’t have been on the road.

 

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Jul 17 2013

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Chilling Out

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greg walking brew rivMy brother Greg drove all the way from Ohio to visit Judy and me, and to reacquaint himself with Vermont. He lived here for several years so he knows well what this part of the country has to offer. Seeing waterfalls and mountains, and doing a little antique hunting were on his to do list, but when temperatures climbed into the 90s, a cool stream grew more appealing. We grabbed a picnic lunch and headed for one yesterday.

Judy had to work so she couldn’t go. My dog Matika had nothing on her calendar, though. She was happy to escape the hot, stuffy house for a day. As soon as we reached the Brewster River, I tossed a tennis ball in the water and she went after it with a vengeance. Matika’s not a big one for playing in the water, but she likes both playing ball and staying cool. I kept throwing the ball. She kept going in after it.

The Brewster River is more of a mountain stream than a river, actually. Its clear, cool water flows out of Smugglers Notch, making it a good place to be during a midsummer heat wave. The dozen cars in the parking lot convinced us that we weren’t the only ones who had figured this out. No matter. We hiked in flip-flops up the trail following the stream until we found a nice pool to call our own. We didn’t have to go far.

I gravitated to a small, sandy beach in the shade next to the pool. Greg went directly to the two-foot waterfall feeding the pool to groove on fast-moving water. We both got sufficiently wet then lounged on big flat rocks, completely chilled out. Yeah, this is the thing to do in Vermont on a hot summer day. Hard to beat. Leave the more sophisticated entertainments for another day.

 

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Jul 05 2013

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A Red Eft Day

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red eftYou know it’s a wetter-than-usual day when the red efts come out. They disappear when the forest is dry and seem to be everywhere after a good rain. On a particularly wet day, it is hard to keep from stepping on them. And that’s exactly the kind of day it was yesterday. 

Savage forest: hot, dripping wet, incredibly humid, and overgrown. Pools of water everywhere, and the trail underfoot nearly hidden by knee-high vegetation. Mosquitos in their glory. Not for the feint of heart – for those who think the good life is all about being comfortable all the time.

The savage forest brings out the savage within. Twenty minutes into it, I was bug-bitten, sweaty, wet from the waist down, and happy. A mood like this cannot be explained. One either recoils from savagery or embraces it. There are no half measures, not when the woods get like this.

Nature isn’t just pretty flowers, rare glimpses of wildlife, picture postcard waterfalls, and rainbows. Sometimes it has an edge. Sometimes it can be downright inhospitable. Yet there is something magnificent about its endless variations. I wouldn’t want it any other way. So let the mosquitoes and red efts have their day. I will wander the woods all the same.

 

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Jun 26 2013

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The First Day Lily

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first day lilyDespite my poor gardening skills and general negligence, the day lilies that grow in front of my house do quite well every year. The first one opened today, bright and cheery enough to overrule the dark clouds that ushered in a thunderstorm this morning.

While I was on the road yesterday, showing my book to store owners, I couldn’t help but notice the deep, rich smell of the Vermont countryside – a luxuriant blend of pollen, forest humus, and happy vegetation. Recent rains have intensified it. The word “lush” doesn’t begin to describe what’s going on these days. The growing season has kicked into high gear.

What a pleasant surprise to discover this explosion of color in my yard at the start of the day! I am astounded by this overt display of earthly delight. Who can love nature and hate summer?

 

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Aug 22 2012

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Backyard Lounging

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Contrary to the image that I create with this blog site, I’m not always on the move. Quite often I sit still – especially when I’m between busy shifts at the hotel. On those days, the shade beneath the old maple tree in my back yard is the place to be. Beats staying indoors, anyhow.

I usually have a small pile of books, notebooks and papers on the table next to me. I do a lot of light-duty literary work beneath the old maple: reading, letter writing, journaling, planning, and so on. Sometimes I just sit and think. Sometimes my dog Matika entices me to get up and throw the ball for her. On the weekends Judy joins me and we talk. I’m never bored.

A squirrel scurries along a nearby fence. Crickets chirp steadily. A cardinal or robin breaks into song every once in a while. The town bustles in the background. A gentle breeze rocks the rope swing dangling from a thick branch, reminding me of busier times with the grandkids. These are the sights and sounds of late summer, pleasant yet inducing a slight melancholy. Here in northern Vermont, the warm season is short indeed.

The writer’s life is a contemplative one. This is true even for those of us who write about the great outdoors. Experiences have to be processed. Ideas need time to ferment. An essential part of woods wandering is not wandering at all.

 

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Jun 30 2012

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Summer Sun

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I open the door to the back yard, letting the dog out, and am greeted by an early morning sun burning brightly as it clears the trees. Not quite awake yet, the spectacle takes me by surprise even though I’ve seen it a thousand times before. The summer sun at the start of a cloudless day is irresistible.

Summertime is all about the sun. It blazes with such intensity on the Summer Solstice that all memories of the longer, cooler time of year fade to irrelevance. And the day seems to go on forever.

Barefoot before going to work, I putter about the yard pulling weeds, watering the herbs and tomato plants spilling out of planters, and checking out flowers now opening to the sun. Then I settle into the shade of an old maple tree with my books and papers. Even when I’m not banging around in the woods, life is good. Simple pleasures, like fresh strawberries, are abundant this time of year.

Our very existence depends upon that immense orb of fiery nuclear reactions over ninety million miles away. Without it this planet would be a cold, barren wasteland as most planets are. Any closer to it and Earth would be a living hell. On some level all the plants around us seem to know this. Each day they reach towards the sun as if worshiping it, and flourish before its unblinking gaze. Is it any wonder that our first gods were sun gods? Even today, in countless modern, secular ways, we still worship it as we leave our homes and offices to recreate out-of-doors.

Here in Vermont, this far north, the growing season is short indeed. But that only makes these summer days that much more precious. This isn’t California. The sun does not shine endlessly here. So when it does we are wise to set aside everything else we are doing – the supposedly important things – and groove on the sun and all its earthly consequences. The long, cold season so conducive to deep thought will return soon enough.

 

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Jun 09 2012

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A Little Less Than Wild

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For a walk like this, I don’t even bother putting on boots. Street shoes will do. The Rail Trail is so flat and easy to negotiate that I could wear flip flops if I wanted.

This is my third outing on the Rail Trail this week. I’ve been busy writing and working so the convenience of it has won out over any urge to wildness. Besides, the bloom of wildflowers has moved from the forest to the fields and I’m in the mood to groove on it.

Cow vetch, buttercups, red clover, and daisies populate the waist-high timothy along the edge if the trail, along with a host of less obvious wildflowers. I am intoxicated by the smell of them as I amble along slowly.  It is the distinct smell of early summer.

Robins, swallows and blackbirds shoot across the trail as I walk.  A gentle breeze rustles the deep green leaves of overhanging trees. Grass sways in the nearby fields, beneath a partly cloudy sky. Long rows of young corn, only a few inches high, add a sense of order to the muddy chaos of plowed fields. It’s a country scene and, for an hour or so, I am a countryman.

What is it about early summer that makes us so happy? Is it all the lush vegetation, the relaxed pleasure of being outdoors, or the promise of several months of easy living? Perhaps it’s best not to question it.  Simply be in the moment instead.

Next week I’ll grab my rucksack and head for the hills. But for now, in the cusp between springtime and summer, it’s enough to walk through a landscape that’s a little less than wild. The deep woods can wait.

 

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Jun 12 2011

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Summer Bloom

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The wildflowers that grow along roads and in fallow fields are easy to ignore.  It is the warm season, after all, and we are exuberant with baseball, beaches and a vast array of other summertime activities.  But the bloom has moved now from canopied forests to open places awash in sunlight.  Now the green is punctuated with tiny splashes of yellow, pink, blue and a dozen other dazzling hues.

It’s a subtle beauty to be sure – the stuff of impromptu bouquets given to mothers by their children.  One can walk along a recreational trail for twenty minutes before really noticing them.  But see one and hundreds suddenly appear, no, thousands.  Thick patches of birdsfoot trefoil and clover at one’s feet, bright yellow and orange hawkweed here and there, tangles of dewberry, and the ubiquitous buttercup – they all vie for our attention.  Summer’s bright, happy palette is everywhere, half-hidden in timothy bent over by a steady, warm breeze.  Bladderwort hugs the trail’s gravely edges.  Cow vetch lurks in the background.  Daisies steal the show.

When I walk in the open this time of year, I marvel at nature’s diversity.  The forest is just as fecund as the field, but the field flaunts it.  The untended places drenched with high sun allow plants to go crazy.  Ferns, moss and other lifeforms may creep relentlessly across the damp forest floor, but in the meadows biomass explodes.  Feel the heat that all these plants generate on a hot day and there’s no doubt in your mind that life pulsates on this planet.  Butterflies, dragonflies and countless other insects go about their business in these roofless hothouses.  Step into it and you come out covered in pollen and seeds.  Yeah, the wild fields are like that in June.  And they will only grow more intense as the season progresses.

It is easy to be awed by snow-capped mountains, roiling seas and blazing sunsets, but the power and glory of nature lies in the tiny flowers that we hardly notice at all – the ones whose names we forget or confuse with others, the ones that can only be appreciated with a magnifying glass.  Herein lies irrefutable proof that the wild will persist no matter what.  Herein lies the true genius of the ordered chaos that is Nature.  An hourlong walk this time of year reaffirms my pantheism.  God is in all things, surely.  What other explanation can there possibly be for such overabundance?  The fields full of wildflowers echo the chorus sung by billions of stars in the night sky.  Both the universe and the world we inhabit are absolutely teeming with possibility.

 

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