The Gloriousness of June

I THINK
I will write you a letter, 
June day.
Dear June Fifth,
you're all in green,
so many kinds and all one
green, tree shadows on
grass blades and grass
blade shadows. The air
fills up with motor
mower sound. The cat
walks up the drive
a dead baby rabbit
in her maw. The sun
is hot, the breeze
is cool. And suddenly
in all the green
the lilacs bloom,
massive and exquisite
in color and shape
and scent. The roses
are more full of
buds than ever. No
flowers. But soon.
June day, you have
your own perfection:
so green to say
goodbye to. Green,
stick around
a while.
         -- James Schuyler

James Schuyler has written the perfect poem: a love letter to a day in June. Not just any day. Today.

June green is unlike any other, vibrant and alive, still nourished by the spring rains, not yet ruined by hot sun, nor eaten by insects. Next to the June green, the peonies are more vibrant, the sundrops more sunny, the daisies more pure. Yes, June green is more.

The gardens are planted, red pears and green apples are growing, cherries are ripening, birds are nesting, perching, and singing.

The wild primrose opened in Sunday’s sun and surprised the surrounding motley plants. Her dazzling yellow perks up the shabby shed and makes the neighboring weeds look more stately. 

The new gate opens wide and the new fence keeps the fruit trees in and the riffraff critters out (so far).


If I stand by the garden gate I can watch the grape vines growing, their tendrils curling around and around. The grapes are too small still to be more than a vague hope. Will they be sweet? Will they be juicy? Will they be jam or wine?

The cherries are yellow, blushing pink. I ate one today, still sour, still small. Bluebirds are nesting in the eaves of the porch; wrens are nesting by the door. They can have some cherries as long as they share the deep blue June sky.

Dear June fifth, you are glorious. You are enough.

August Is Yellow

Part One
the august sun shines like a spotlight on the ten year old
joyfully riding her new green bicycle (without the training wheels) 
down the gravel driveway.

like a pro, not even braking,
she leans to the left and whizzes onto the dirt path
packed down through years of truck tires.

through the trees she rides, slowing now, for the pull of the dirt
is harder on bicycle tires (though easier on knees).
the trees bow to her, the queen of the bicycle.

the sun glints through the leaves and the air is
saturated with the sweet scent of ripe peaches
and the hum of satisfied and satiated bees.

she pays no attention to the glorious around her
because she is ten years old and not yet aware
that her childhood Augusts were golden.
peaches at apple hill

Part Two
the grandfather is waiting for her to tire of riding circles 
in the orchard. he figures it will take twice (maybe three times)
and she’ll be ready to listen to the lesson that peaches teach.

he has the ladder ready when 
she drops her bike next to the dusty green farm truck.
“Help me pick some peaches?” he asks.

he steadies the ladder and guides her small hand as they reach,
touching the fuzz gently, gently, every squeeze will bruise these 
peaches easy as you bruise those knees.

gently gently she places the peach in the basket looped over her 
      skinny arm.
he moves her hand to another hanging low on the branch. 
see this green? see this fuzz? peaches have to ripen on the tree.

their juices have to be warmed by the hot August sun. they take 
their time ripening and can’t be hurried. you can’t pick the tree 
clean, you have to go again and again to the same tree. 
       peaches teach patience.

together they fill the basket, moving the ladder around the tree
taking their time — savoring the tree-ripened juicy chin-sticky 
sweet yellow sweltering August patience-teaching peaches.

patience is not his usual shape, this short round man in the straw 
hat and farm clothes teaching peaches to the skinny girl with bruised
      knees. 
she learned peaches. she learned love. she still stamps her foot at
      patience

and she can’t abide sickly grocery store peaches.
grandfather

For the next few weeks I’m taking an online poetry course over at Monna McDiarmid’s place. This first week we were asked to write about childhood, and if we wanted, to use the color yellow. I probably won’t post  all the poems, but this one I liked because it was such a good memory of my grandfather, who built Apple Hill Cottage. And my sister sent me this photo just as I was writing the poem…It’s a work in progress. Comments welcome.

the sorrowful song of the trees

You will go out in joy and be led forth in peace; 
the mountains and the hills will burst into song before you, 
and all the trees of the field will clap their hands. Isaiah 55:12

That’s always been one of my favorite verses — the image of the trees rising up and swaying their branches in joy to the Savior is a powerful one for me. (I always loved Tolkien’s Ents, too.)

But the year of 2016 paints a grim picture of trees cowering in fear from the plague of giant flying periodical cicadas. (Yes, I’m sorry, another post on cicadas. It’s what’s happening here at Apple Hill Cottage.)

This is the oak tree at the side of our house. The oaks seem to be a favorite and sustain the most damage.

The only websites I can find that tell the truth about these creatures are the Penn State and Ohio State agricultural offices. At the bottom of the Penn State article it says, (I’m paraphrasing) Your trees should be fine, that is, unless you have 4-year-old or less fruit trees. Then you’re in big trouble.


The adult cicadas are gone now. I can go out in the morning and actually hear birds singing. But the damage they have done to the trees is disheartening. Our yard is littered with broken little branches.


The female cicadas lay their eggs in small shoots at the edges of trees. This is a close up of the slits they make.

Each female can lay up to 400 eggs in 40 to 50 different sites. By my unofficial count that’s about a gazillion cicada eggs on our 2.9 acres… So we are gathering up prunings of branches, both fallen and cut from trees, and burning them.

Tonight we undid the netting on the two trees we covered. As of now, it doesn’t seem like our efforts made a difference, but the branches are not done dying… We pruned back the trees by about a third. The apples seem to have been hit the worst; the two pear trees the least; the beautiful little cherry may make it, but will never be as symmetrical as it was this spring before the cicada plague began.

Mr. H. C.’s beloved Honey Crisp tree went from 10 feet tall to 6 feet. We’re just grateful that we were slackers this spring and didn’t do the early spring pruning.

Pruning from a Honey Crisp apple tree after the decimation of periodical cicadasThat pile of branches is from one tree. Note the tree in the far background. No, it isn’t October!

Why did we not know that to plant our fruit trees 3 or 4 years ago was, in effect, dooming them from the 17-year-locusts? Why did we waste money, time, effort, and love on these six beautiful little trees? What? Oh, NEXT YEAR is the year to plant fruit trees because then they will have 17 years to grow and be fruitful before the next horde arrives.

IMG_7053

Most people are just delighted that the awful bugs are gone. Everyone has a story about someone they know who was outside doing chores and opened their mouth at the wrong time. It was bonding, living through this plague — there was always something to talk about with strangers in line at the grocery store…

But from everything I’ve read about the life cycle of Magicicada Septendecim, once they hatch in the twigs (after about six weeks) they are the size of grains of rice and they drop to the ground. Really? Cicada maggots the size of rice dropping from trees? I originally thought the dead branches fell with the eggs in them and that’s how the larvae got to the ground. But this quote below is from the OSU Entomology Dept.:

Cicada eggs remain in the twigs for six to ten weeks before hatching. The newly hatched, ant-like nymphs fall to the ground where they burrow six to 18 inches underground to feed.

It definitely implies that the nymphs fall through the air, doesn’t it? There’s something to look forward to in August!

I need a wide-brimmed hat with a veil more than ever…