If you expect a real poem in the tradition of Keats, Wordsworth or Shelley, my apologies. I have none now, and may never be touched by the eternal muse who inspired them and our many modern poets who toil with the fewest words for the greatest meaning. But I’ll stick with a secondary definition – “something that shows respect or celebrates the value or influence of another” – with our recent weather as a starting point.
My favorite season in New England has always been late spring to early summer. (The riot of colors in our leaves in October has me gazing around the corner at their impending doom, the shortest days, and my constant search for somewhere warm and well-lit.) This year, the long periods of blue skies, low humidity, hot days and cool nights demand that I violate what Yankee magazine once identified as a central trait for New Englanders: “…complaining about the weather , still.
From late May to early July, we were blessed with “San Diego weather”, which was all the more delightful since we are not in San Diego. (My late brother, who lived in another nice-weather haven near Silicon Valley, once noted a common greeting in cafes there: “Looks like another fucking nice day.”) Our time has passed. all expectations, bringing joy to all things outdoors, bathing us in temperate sunshine before and after the solstice, when we had more than 15 hours of daylight compared to December’s nine hours.
The best “time to sleep” of the year comes when the crisp, cool night air circulates through the wide-open windows. Enjoying a screened porch on a dead end street as dusk slowly creeps in, the dogs and their people provide a whisper of humanity to complement the melodic chirps of birds and the rustle of the breeze through towering maples and elms . There are no leftovers on our plates from the delicate tips of local asparagus or the bright greens and yellows of squash, with the earliest corn on the way.
As my daydream continues, I consider our town, Greenfield, which alternates between bucolic and bustling, steeped in the political, social and cultural influences of the more populated areas. Our county fairground hosts a classic fall farm fair (complete with horse drawing!) after summer festivals celebrating the newest and oldest voices in music, and a gathering featuring “food and smokers” in barbecue and cannabis competitions.
When I opened this newspaper on a recent Monday, I was amazed at the number of activities within a few miles: a garden tour; free music and poetry from a chain of porches; live theater and dance performances; an outdoor market filled with flowers, herbs and vegetables donated by our hardworking farmers; several non-profit organizations that do their best to improve the lives of our neighbors. Bill Danielson’s Speaking of Nature column is always inspiring with his boundless love for birds and their habitats. Paul Franz’s photos of landscapes, people and animals are often suitable for a gallery.
But slowly, my reverie goes away. Are my thoughts just a form of escape? Absolutely. Open windows allow in allergenic pollen; our beautiful dry days can produce drought for gardens and crops; our city is torn apart by calls for the removal of a city councilor, the mayor and/or the chief of police. After wallowing in the beauty and diversity of our natural and human world, I am (deliberately) assaulted by a Uvalde teacher’s account of his horrific ordeal, and a New Yorker article on the near- Hungarian dictator admired by some right-wing Americans: he implements a “constitutional coup” by first changing “the laws to give himself permission to do what he wants, then he does it”.
Getting away has become essential in a world that a friend recently described as “gone crazy”. But this type of escape does not require any physical movement or technical assistance. It is looking at a glass that may not be half full, but at least contains healing water.
The best I can do for an ode (note the very large space that creates two words, since it has nothing to do with electrical polarity) on New England weather is a bit of adapted nursery rhyme doggerel of Henry Wadsworth Longfellow: was a little girl, Who had a little curl, Right in the middle of her forehead. When she was good, she was very, very good, but when she was bad, she was awful. This spring and summer our weather has been very, very good.
Allen Woods is a freelance writer, author of the Revolutionary-era historical fiction novel “Sword and Scabbard”, and resident of Greenfield. His column appears regularly on Saturdays. Comments are welcome here or at [email protected]