Thursday, June 3, 2010

A perfectly beautiful early June day

Despite the fact that I’ve lived in this state for over forty years and in this town for the majority of them and despite the additional fact that I make a living as a writer, there are days so beautiful they leave me wordless, unable to put together any descriptive prose at all to reflect their magnificence, and yesterday was just such a day.

You would think I would have seen enough days like this in New England to be able to describe the smell of the air, the cant of the sunlight. You would think I would know enough words at this point in my career to have all the adjectives and correct botanical terms to be able to describe the glimmering emerald leaves and the lush grasses. But I don’t. Forty-plus years here, and a career in journalism, and I still don’t have the words for an early June day that feels like summer in Carlisle.

The sunlight was strong but not hot, warming up the air and the ground one degree at a time, persistent but not overpowering. The sky was clear, and there were so many smells in the air: lilacs with a perfume that would be overpowering if it were not natural, but because it’s part of the outdoors and springtime, it’s gorgeous on the verge of cloying. By late morning, there was the heavy scent of mulching grass in the air, that damp, humid, green smell that emanates from the foliage beginning after the first few hot days of spring and lasting through August.

Living on a farm, with flat pastures and long sight lines, I’m particularly aware of the foliage throughout the year. In the winter, when the branches are bare, I can see from the barn all the way out to the road in the morning; after I say goodbye to Tim and head out to feed the cows, I can see his school bus pass by all the way across two pastures and a border of woods five minutes later. Yesterday as I let the sheep out, I couldn’t see so much as a flash of yellow when the school bus presumably went by; the branches made too thick a curtain. An hour later, waiting with Holly for her bus, I notice the same thing: in winter and early spring, out at the road I can see from a tenth of a mile away when the bus is coming; at this time of year, with the branches so thick with an abundance of leaves, I can’t see ten feet around the curve of the road to know when it’s about to arrive.

At night on a day as perfect as yesterday, the air still smells like lilacs and is full of sounds: crickets, peepers, and toward midnight a family of coyotes yipping their strange coded patterns. The early sunrise makes it easier for me to wake up early.

I’m dismal at nature writing. I don’t know the proper terms for what I see, and I’m not good with lyrical descriptions anyway; as a journalist, I’m better at describing what happened than spinning similes. I’m trying to improve, though. Right now I’m reading A Walk in the Wilderness by T.A. Barron and John Fielder to try to grasp their method of describing natural landscapes, and I recently picked up a collection of Thoreau’s essays about nature as well. I don’t expect to get good at it, but maybe through absorption and imitation I can improve.

Perfect June days like yesterday defy my powers to describe them and make a mockery of my attempts to immortalize them in words. So rather than trying further to write it out, I’ll just absorb the magnificence of a hot, sunny, dry day in June, with blue sky and yellow sunshine and pale green grasses and emerald green leaves, and save my words for another time.

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