Friday, June 21, 2013

`Akin to a Paradise'

In his chapter devoted to the month of June in The Rural Life (2003), Verlyn Klinkenborg describes the tease of a summer storm, the blackening sky, an unexpectedly chill wind, even thunder and the smell of ozone – then more drought. In the early evening on Wednesday we had a brief respite of rain, a pounding followed by a feeble spritz, then nothing. The pavement dried in ten minutes. Klinkenborg writes: “A clear night threatens once again, Venus hanging peaceful in the dusk.” 

The drought has boosted acorn production among Houston’s oaks. Even the squirrels can’t keep up with them. Some yards are dense with saplings four or five inches tall. When I pull one from the ground, exposing the rotting husk of the acorn, there’s a puff of dust as with a dried-out puffball. The heat and dryness in Houston are killing our lime tree but spurring a profusion of weeds. Thoreau, writing like a true Yankee, observes in his journal for May 9, 1852: 

“Those who come to this world as to a watering-place in the summer for coolness and luxury never get the far and fine November views of heaven. Is not all the summer akin to a paradise?”

In our backyard I see the gulf fritillary, the giant swallowtail and the queen butterfly, sharing blossoms with ruby-throated hummingbirds.  Klinkenborg, as is fitting on this solstice, refers to the “Shakespearean undergrowth” of weeds on his farm – dame’s rocket, cow vetch and ground ivy, all of which I see here in Texas. Oberon exults:  

“I know a bank where the wild thyme blows,
Where oxlips and the nodding violet grows,
Quite over-canopied with luscious woodbine,
With sweet musk-roses and with eglantine:
There sleeps Titania sometime of the night,
Lull'd in these flowers with dances and delight.”

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