August ushers in to our Virginia mountain byways an eclectic bouquet of wildflowers: Queen Anne’s Lace and assorted cousins seem to be more ubiquitous this year than ever. Their delicate bridal motif make a royal counter-point to rudbekia, red clover blossoms, daisy yellow and
pink fleabane, several hybrid of goldenrod, ironweed, ragweed and assorted wild asters. I yearn for the time to capture them
on film close-up and marvel at their genius. Early signs of waning summer likewise
are serving notice. Sweeping my driveway recently, I discovered the fragile and
delicate tatting of a young redbud leaf, all but impossible to duplicate in any silk flower; a magician’s scalpel had
transformed the leaf into a magical angel’s cape of filigree. In a theme
repeated often in these pages, Canadian geese have been making practice dry runs across our valley in their familiar V formations,
strengthening their wing muscles for the long migration. Roadside produce stands
hereabout are selling sweet corn, squash, cucumbers, and other bounty from their gardens.
With my night window open to the forest, I fall asleep to a chorus of cicadas chanting a midsummer dirge. The median
of summer evokes pensive thoughts of another year passing too quickly. Only a
breath away schools will reopen to begin a new cycle of learning, youth an inch or more taller with a year gone by, yellow
buses returning to the morning traffic with treasured cargo. Majesty memory at
work remembering my own long-ago school days.
Bears roaming in our neighborhood recently
found their way to my backyard, toppling the bird feeder to take the suet cakes and the wire cages they were contained in. So, with regrets, I have temporarily ceased feeding the birds, assured that He who
knows each sparrow will care for them through this summer drought…and likewise, the bears.
Recently an armchair journey into the past: W.
D. Wetherell’s book: North of Now, A Celebration of Country and the Soon to be
Gone - essays that lament a way of life now extinct. In one chapter, a boy
at fourteen had the luxury of reading all summer and lists numerous classics he absorbs, many of which I too have read. Of course, the boy he writes about is himself.
In another, he informs us that for fifteen years his family has lived sans television
and how much richer their life has been without it. Another essay, entitled Quiet, recalls a time when music was decibels lower, machines were fewer, and the
sounds of nature were still audible. He quotes Thoreau: ”There came to
me…a melody which the air had strained, and which had conversed with every leaf and needle of the woods…For the
rest of the afternoon, my meditations are interrupted only by the faint rattle of a carriage or team along the distant highway.”
contrasts that with today’s country noises: the sound of construction (and
destruction), the roar of trucks passing even on secondary roads, a pack of twenty six
motorcycles, not a muffler in the bunch, jet skis on once serene lakes, and the roar of “all terrain vehicles.”
“To do the useful thing, to say the courageous
thing, to contemplate the beautiful thing: that is enough for one man's life.”
T. S. Elliot
“The Christian faith, simply stated, reminds us that our fundamental
problem is not moral; rather, our fundamental problem is spiritual. It is not
just we are immoral, but that a moral life alone cannot bridge what separates us from God.
Herein lies the cardinal difference between the moralizing religions and Jesus’ offer to us: Jesus does not offer to make bad people good but to make dead people alive.”
Ravi Zacharias, The Grand Weaver, How God Shapes Us
Through the Events of our Lives.