July Now and Then
July didn't fade this year. Roasted to a turn, it was consumed by the heat and is no more. Only the ashes remain in the air. It may have taken whatever rain existed with it. The sky is unflinchingly clear.
This afternoon, out collecting my cursed allottment of Japanese beetles, I heard thunder to the south. It rumbled on and on as if proceeding down a rutted track. The smallest, almost imperceptible freshening breeze fluttered the leaves and the Japanese beetle bags. In twenty minutes the ghost and the thunder had moved on, just one more broken promise.
The weather remains hot and dry. The Christmas tree, a Virginia pine, has quit growing. The forest pansy redbud, planted last month, can be reached by hose so it's not dependent on anything but my remembering to give it water. Grateful for the deep wetness it has straightened some from its bent pose.
Not all Julys are the same. This one reminded me of the drought of several years ago. But it didn't start out that way. It began benignly, as though June were going to hang around forever. And June, also somewhat retarded, hung onto the pansies longer than any year I remember. Except for 1996. Now that was a July to hang on to. So I did:
In the height of this year’s July
The deep green remains unfrayed.
Random thunderstorms and the west edge
Of an early hurricane
Have kept the ground soft,
the green deep,
the shade dark.
The laze of August, when the morning sun
Is orange and every leaf suffers from age,
Has yet to arrive. June stays on and on,
Benign and welcome still.
On the Fourth, the cool air made
Flannel weather of the fireworks.
Everyone was cold; the bright sky
Flowers seemed out of place and time
In the unaccustomed chill.
Mid-month, the corn is high,
Queen Anne’s lace higher still,
As tall as a woman in places,
With generous filigreed parasols
To shade the dense blue of chicory
And the yarrow, yet to fade.
Tree of heaven fringes the road
Uncurtained by haze
The blossoms burnish as they age
While, with unreason, oaks cling
To their cicada-killed tips
As brown as any December,
And out of place against the green
Backdrop of a strange season.
July 17, 1996
Oh the years come and the years go. The oaks remain. It's entertaining to look at things you know will outlast you. Keeps it all in perspective.