Archive for June, 2012

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 18 2012

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The End of an Illusion

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Yesterday I finished turning over the soil in my so-called wildflower garden, removing all the plants from it, thus ending a four-year experiment. The time had come to admit my mistake.

I had visions of a small patch of wild forest in the corner of my otherwise tame property. A jumble of ground ivy, crabgrass, bindweed and dandelion emerged instead, choking out the daisies and other “wildflowers” that I had seeded there. Things don’t always work out as planned.

For four years I had successfully resisted the urge to pull weeds from that backyard plot – something I do religiously in the much more aesthetically pleasing garden in front of my house. In other words, I let nature take its course back there. Unfortunately, nature can be cruel.

Truth is, nature is neither kind nor cruel. It only seems that way when the wild world passes through the prism of our all-too-human values. That’s precisely where I went wrong. I thought I could drop the word “weed” from my vocabulary and the beauty of deep woods would magically appear in the corner of my city lot.

Soon my wife and I will put some shade-tolerant plants back there: bleeding hearts, columbine, and whatever woodland flowers we can find at the local nursery. Then I will cultivate the plot using methods as old as civilization itself, making it domestically beautiful. And that will have to do. After all, there’s no such thing as a wild garden.



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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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