A Day in July

Katy's musings on a summer day.
written July, 1967

Dear Nephew Ray,

This is one of those July days when one is aware of nothing but summer. The sky is blue with a few ruffles of white cloud, the sun sends brilliant streams of hot, golden light pouring relentlessly over the landscape and the unmoving air is heavily laden with dust and smells of dry grass and red roses.

Rama and Vashti are sleeping stretched out on their backs, all four legs, well, all eight legs flopping bonelessly, in the middle of the floor where an errant draft might touch them. Josiah is snoozing in the living room, Martha has retired to her bedroom, and I have settled myself behind the wisteria on the front porch.

Even flies are too hot to buzz about today, tho I see several indefatigably industrious ants scurrying along the porch rail gathering grains of sugar I spilled when sweetening my iced tea. Lazy, lazy days of summer.

Today could be well spent reading for the umpteenth time a favorite book. To be lost with Caruso, weep for lovely, young Beth March, solve mysteries a la Sherlock Holmes with an airy "Elementary, my dear Watson", or join Roy Chapman Andrews on one of his exciting explorations. Surely one can summon enough energy to turn a page - if only just.

It would be an excellent afternoon to follow a creek to its source. Those thread-like streamlets that emerge from tree-lined gullies along the highways and by-ways can lead to scene after scene of natural beauty. Fallen trees, luxurient mosses, curtains of wild grape, tiny waterfalls, weathered shale out-croppings, pools of stagnant water rich with miniscule life, streamers of evil smelling green scum, small holes suggestive of chipmunks and larger ones which might belong to woodchucks, quiet trees leaning from the gully banks, providing restful shade.

If you sit silently long enough you may hear hushed sounds of woods creatures scurring about, tho most of them hole up during the heat of the day. Bird songs, bell-like and clear, are more melodious than the town robin's chirp. Water beetles ferry back and forth over the surface of a pool. There are prints of dainty hooves at water's edge telling of deer visiting the place at some time.

Between the steep, foliage-hung shale walls of the gully the air is damp, cool, redolent of rotten wood, leaf mould, and stagnant water. A dark stain on one wall shows where water seeps from the ground above, oozing a few drops a day into the stream.

A turtle has set up house-keeping here. All alone, it seems, he lives his hermit life with a well-stocked larder of bugs, a bit of water for swimming, a nice patch of sunny rock for basking, and a good mud bed. Everything a turtle's heart could desire.

The gully twists and turns, hiding its path, then disclosing a new picture as you round the next curve. A boulder worn to glassy smoothness by ages of flowing water, terraces of eroded shale indicating the gradually decreasing flow of water over the years, a shallow cave where you might seek shelter from a rain storm, narrow defiles where harder rock resisted the water's hungry licking and finally the sodden spot whence water issues from the ground.

No bubbling fountain this, but a dark, wet, mucky place under which lies a boggy spring, idly seeking escape. You are tempted to prod with a stick or even dig a bit with your hands to see if you can free the spring's mouth to flow more abundantly. You visualize a gush of clean water roaring down the course, clearing stagnant pools, washing away smelly scum, filling stream banks with a singing, racing flow.

But your efforts are of no avail. There is no imagined prisoner here awaiting release. Then you realize that had there been, the whole lovely world you just explored would be changed, wiped out. The mosses would be washed away, the turtle's hermitage destroyed, water beetles hurtled into oblivion, trees undermined, rocks tumbled out of place. You sit back, wiping muddied hands on grass and study the spring.

No, no harm done. The slow seepage continues untroubled by your well-intentioned tampering. Your feeble hands have been unable to upset the balance Nature has established. Getting to your feet, you retrace your steps, descending waterfalls, scrambling over tree trunks, discovering new scenes of loveliness as you go. You emerge, chilled, damp about the seat, greenly wet about the feet, legs and arms mud-spattered and scratched, into the late afternoon heat, feeling that you've been in an entirely different world, refreshed and a bit wiser for the experience.

It is usually best to let Nature take its own course rather than to attempt to accelerate, decelerate of redirect it. There is a rhythmic rise and fall in all things that cannot be hurried or delayed. All things begin and all things end while beneath there is an unchanging force flowing steadily on, unaffected by surface disturbances. Too often we worry about the ripples on the surface and forget the steady stream flowing deep and true which should be our only concern.

I hear Martha moving around the kitchen getting supper. There is a bowl of what we call "Everything Salad" which consists of greens, vegetables, meat, cheese, pickles, hard-boiled eggs, and a choice of dressing for individual servings. We'll have iced tea and melon for a cool, sweet, light dessert. An appealing meal on a hot day like this and especially after a remembered and romanticised walk in a picturesque gully.

Uncle Jos sends regards as do I,

Your Aunt Katy