July, The Summer Season Of Youth And Promise
At 6 a.m. the sun is warm and rising in my back yard.
I let the dogs out and stand on the redwood deck, stretching, glad to be alive. The light shining through silver maple leaves paints its own artwork on the siding of my house like elfin language. It’s 65 degrees with a breeze sweet as fresh cut grass. This is July in Western New York, arguably the prettiest month of the year. July–it’s even a beautiful word.
A friend’s father used to joke about our weather and say, we have two seasons here in Chautauqua County–winter and July. Some years, that pretty much describes it. Years like this one full of snow and ice from December through March then wet and chilly throughout spring. Then one day the rain stopped and July began. July–it’s a season all its own.
How can it not make us sigh with joy? At Brigiotta’s and Peterson’s, all the seasonal vegetables and fruits are on display – berries of all colors and smells, veggies of all kinds, and soon the promise of sweet corn. We drive through the countryside and see the corn tall and green, headed towards harvesting. I think of a song in the musical “Oklahoma”— “the corn is as high as an elephant’s eye, and it looks like it’s climbing way up to the sky…” Above me the sky is an unfiltered cerulean.
The lake is high this year from all the rain, and it looks clear and fine like a glacial lake. Pickups hauling boats behind them head for some good spot to put in: Celoron, Lakewood, Bemus Point, Greenhurst, and Long Point State Park. In the season of July, horses graze in knee-high timothy and alfalfa, swishing tails and nodding contently. Out Townline Road, there are four black Percherons with soft eyes and friendly ears, up by the fence, grateful to be knee deep in pasture. Cows freed from the barns loll on meadows; their milk will taste fresher, better all summer long. Birds new to my feeder show up and appreciate a good meal, nodding and chipping away. The fields I pass on Baker Street Extension are full of waving white daisies, Tiger Lilies, cornflowers, buttercups. Milkweeds open their odd pods and let fly their silky seeds. Wildflowers scent the air, sway in the breeze. It’s enchanting. In August, the world of flowers wild and domestic will go white as if in preparation for change of palette. Queen Anne’s Lace will arrive, and then the purple asters of fall.
But July, July is full of color, rich with scent. We almost can’t believe our luck.
For we live so much of our lives in the cold and wet months, another kind of white world where we are captive. We bear the shorter days, the darkness that swallows up light by 5 p.m. for months on end. So it is too, we bear the burdens life doles out to us, the illnesses and deaths, the losses and sorrows. They are the winter of our interior selves. Thus in the season July, it can’t get too hot, too sunny, too full of flowers. Memory for me is bathed in July’s extraordinary light. In my heart, it is always July where life is rich and full and we are home safe. We are healthy and strong; the park is full of childhood laughter. We are sitting on a grandfather’s dock in Fluvanna, feet dangling in the cool water. No one is lost. No one is missing. No grief confounds us.
In the season July, we are young, the sun hot on our backs. We are tan and fit and beautiful. We are zooming down the lake in a fine Chris Craft, wind in our face, inboard humming. A daisy is tucked behind my ear; I’m wearing a blue and white checkered sun dress. The world is incredibly beautiful. July in Chautauqua County–almost heaven.
The poet E. Henley says, “Here is the ghost / Of a summer that lived for us, / Ere is a promise /Of summer to be.”
Ah, July, season of youth and promise. We dream of you.