As a little girl growing up in rural Pennsylvania, summer was a magic time of no school, long days at the playground across the street from my house, time with my sisters doing puzzles and playing Monopoly on the porch.
One summer memory must have been from the summer of 1969-a most magic summer of love and hippies and Woodstock. For me however it was my earliest memory of the summer reading club at my local library. I was old enough that summer to walk to the library alone and the children’s librarian was eager to sign up summer readers. She had somehow made tiny rocket ships from salt that slowly crept toward the moon’s surface as you tabulated more books. (Remember this was the summer we landed on the moon.) I can still remember moving my rocket game piece on the path and the salty residue it left on my fingertips.
Oblivious to the wide open field adjoining my mom and dad’s house and the creek running through the property, I studiously read all that summer, ingesting books about ancient Egypt, Aztecs and Mayans. Mom however insisted that we be outside. She had bought that summer a “chaise lounge” at some yard sale and I felt very cosmopolitan lounging on the comfy cushion that she had recovered, dreaming of far off civilizations.
Even though I say I was oblivious of the natural beauty around me in those long summer days perhaps I came to appreciate that natural world by osmosis. As a gardener now my “summer reading” often includes botanical and garden design books, tomes about the many insects that inhabit the landscape and information about the pest and diseases that frequent my garden. But just today I had a different “summer reading” experience.
The beautiful light and sweet smell of a milkweed flower drew me in. From some of my reading I know that this flower is one of the most highly evolved because of its intricate lock and key method of pollen dispersal, however, it was the beauty that I “read” as I watch a bee visit each flower.
My summer reading has changed. In the long sun lit days I have more time to observe the gentle unfolding of a lily, listen for the croak of a green frog in my pond or appreciate that at a certain temperature the fireflies put on a twinkling light show to rival any 4th of July display. I’ll admit I am not above a trashy romance while sitting at the beach, but this version of “summer reading” has me hooked. I no longer need the impetus of that homemade rocket ship to inspire me to “read” the bounty in my own backyard. I just need to be aware of the balm that this appreciation of nature is to a soul. It is enough!!
Teresa Knipper is a Master Gardener in Mercer County NJ. She is passionate about sustainable gardening especially for butterflies. She has also just finished her training as spiritual director at the Upper Room Spiritual Center in Neptune NJ.