“What is so rare as a day in June, then, if ever, come perfect days…”
My mom had a poem for every season, sometimes a precise month — the two I remember best are “What is So Rare as a Day in June” and “October’s Bright Blue Weather.” She grew up in a time (and with a dad) who required that kids memorize poetry. Then she became a school teacher back when teachers did teach a whole school.
Yesterday was a perfect June day for Dusty, Bear and me. It was blustery and gray, a strong wind, the threat of rain (but not the realization, though that would have been OK with us, too).
About 5 o’clock, when the wind had died down a little, I said, “What the heck, dogs,. Let’s go.” We headed out to the slough. Lovely though it is in all seasons, its not that much fun right now. It’s a mosquito wonderland with a few horseflies just in case the mosquitos don’t do a good enough job. It’s fine, it’s nature, and every little creature has to do its little creature thing. Besides, the birds are hungry and feeding babies, so the more bugs the better. With the wind blowing so hard, though, neither mosquitos or horseflies would have a chance.
Dusty and Bear are in “summer walk” mode which means they are leashed, walking beside me, at heel. There are also rattlesnakes which have their important place in nature. I’m not challenging that with a big, loping, goofy, curious dog.
We were so happy to be out! The river was very, very high. The air was crisp. The wind blew in strong gusts. Undaunted, the birds swooped and hunted anyway. The wild iris were blooming, having lifted their miraculous perfect heads out of the snow-smashed morass of dead grass. Near the end of our walk, the dogs stopped and looked up, alerting me to a golden eagle flying above the river.
Today, however, is the kind of day Lowell has written about. The plants are rushing to make the most of the short season. The robin fledgelings are on their way — one was in my yard yesterday. It was my job to see she was safe from the dogs. She looked up at me like, “Dude, I’m going to be fine just keep that big white beast away from me!”
What is so rare as a day in June?
And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries earth if it be in tune,
And over it softly her warm ear lays;
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
Every clod feels a stir of might,
An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
And, groping blindly above it for light,
Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers;
The flush of life may well be seen
Thrilling back over hills and valleys;
The cowslip startles in meadows green,
The buttercup catches the sun in its chalice,
And there’s never a leaf nor a blade too mean
To be some happy creature’s palace;
The little bird sits at his door in the sun,
Atilt like a blossom among the leaves,
And lets his illumined being o’errun
With the deluge of summer it receives;
His mate feels the eggs beneath her wings,
And the heart in her dumb breast flutters and sings;
He sings to the wide world, and she to her nest,-
In the nice ear of Nature which song is the best?
Now is the high-tide of the year,
And whatever of life hath ebbed away
Comes flooding back with a ripply cheer,
Into every bare inlet and creek and bay;
Now the heart is so full that a drop overfills it,
We are happy now because God wills it;
No matter how barren the past may have been,
‘Tis enough for us now that the leaves are green;
We sit in the warm shade and feel right well
How the sap creeps up and the blossoms swell;
We may shut our eyes but we cannot help knowing
That skies are clear and grass is growing;
The breeze comes whispering in our ear,
That dandelions are blossoming near,
That maize has sprouted, that streams are flowing,
That the river is bluer than the sky,
That the robin is plastering his house hard by;
And if the breeze kept the good news back,
For our couriers we should not lack;
We could guess it all by yon heifer’s lowing,-
And hark! How clear bold chanticleer,
Warmed with the new wine of the year,
Tells all in his lusty crowing!
Joy comes, grief goes, we know not how;
Everything is happy now,
Everything is upward striving;
‘Tis as easy now for the heart to be true
As for grass to be green or skies to be blue,-
‘Tis for the natural way of living:
Who knows whither the clouds have fled?
In the unscarred heaven they leave not wake,
And the eyes forget the tears they have shed,
The heart forgets its sorrow and ache;
The soul partakes the season’s youth,
And the sulphurous rifts of passion and woe
Lie deep ‘neath a silence pure and smooth,
Like burnt-out craters healed with snow.
James Russell Lowell