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Traveling Through Summer

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Carol Bossard

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Thirty days hath September, April, June and November….”  And the 30th of June is coming right up! Foliage is fully out making good hiding places for birds and small creatures. I see chipmunks slipping beneath the comfrey leaves and a rabbit skirting the current bushes. Mysterious paths are evident in the grass, where a skunk or squirrel has traveled to the sunflower seeds. We are just one week from Independence Day ---- July 4th.   The Solstice is past, so summer is here in all its fullness. We have already had days of very warm weather and there are surely more to come, accompanied by thunder storms and humidity, but there will be blissfully fine days as well.

We’ve had our usual late-June “raccoon trouble.” They steal cat food or bird seed --- or whatever their agile little paws can reach or pry open. If enough of them swing on a bird feeder, they can bring it down, and they have also learned to open suet cages. In past summers, we’ve relocated some when they became too bothersome, though a forester friend tells us that is a bad idea. So we refrain unless absolutely necessary.  A few years ago, one large, furry individual took on our English setter. The dog was actually the aggressor; he wouldn’t tolerate another creature in his pen; he even once chased out a bear. Freckles came out of his raccoon confrontation a bit lacerated.  Our on-site vet patched him up and we removed the raccoon. Now, Freckles has passed on,and the little bandits seldom bother our gardens, so we won’t disturb them --- unless they learn to open doors. They are just part of the wild creatures with whom we co-exist, along with a very fat possum, a mostly-white skunk, and a fox or two, etc.  My “cute” woodchuck is another matter! I see relocating in his near future!

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For those who enjoy outdoor life, the next two to three months bring camping season. The downside, for me, are insects of varying kinds and degrees of irritation, as well as less-than-comfortable sleeping conditions. My back no longer appreciates bumpy ground or air mattresses that ooze air during the night. On the up-side, I love campfires, early-morning bird song, and the camaraderie of campgrounds. As Kerm and I drove to Lewisburg, Pennsylvania a few weeks ago, there was a road off to the right that led to one of our 4-H camping experiences, about which I have written before - the icy, foggy night and day, with trees snaping off all around. Then there was the 1972 flood when we were stranded with 150 4-H kids in a church high above flooded Jersey Shore, PA.  4-H camping has been adventurous in many ways.  Our personal camping excursions were less so, although they had their moments.  I have mostly fond memories of our camping experiences with our boys.; it was a good way to see many interesting places and to enjoy being together in a different setting. Currently I mostly prefer sleeping in a real bed, in a room with screened windows.

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Our camping travels mostly took us to New England and south to Virginia, but one trip was much more extensive. My oldest niece, her college roommate, Kerm and I trekked from Victor, New York to Billings, Montana, ostensibly to help another niece and her family move back to NYS. I wrote about this memorable trip last summer. We saw a wide breadth of our diverse country. And besides camping, Kerm and I have done some cross-country trips for conferences and to visit family.   We have not, regretfully, taken the opportunity to travel abroad, but many of our family members and friends have done so.  At one point we had nieces and nephews in Kenya and Tanzania, in India, in Nepal and Thailand, a son and family in Europe, and another son and wife in New Zealand. Their travels seem to make the world feel smaller. We have friends in our community, from other lands too; from Russia, from Japan, from Mexico and Soth America. What I have learned from our journeys, and theirs, is that traveling helps us to grow, to recognize our diversity ---- our wonderful variety of land and the collection of amazing heritages our country, and other countries, hold. It dissolves prejudice and misinformation, and we come to realize that our personal choices are not the only good ways to live. There are rich traditions in every culture.

Sadly, at this point in my life, I find extensive traveling more exhausting than fun. I’d be very happy to teleport ala Star Trek, or Apparate/Disapparate, as in Harry Potter; suddenly being somewhere, eliminating the hassles of packing and weighing luggage, checking for least costly plane tickets, or enduring the heavy highway traffic that adds stress to driving. If I could, I’d stop by Empowering Lives International in Kenya (a Christian Peace Corps-like mission) and the Great Barrier Reef to see those huge tortoises. I’d visit the east coast of Scotland, from whence my father’s family came and some place in France to find my mother’s relatives. I’d certainly visit Finland (where many of our Spencer friends call home), and I might even whisk myself to Alaska, where I’d stand on a glacier, if there are any remaining. I’d spend at least one day sitting at an outdoor café, eating fresh chocolate croissants and drinking tea, in Paris. Those imaginary forms of travel not being currently possible, I am truly grateful for the side roads we have taken, and the wonderful people and unforgettable times we’ve experienced.  We are still on the road occasionally; in August we are off to Maine for a few days, and looking forward to the salty, fortifying air of the sea.

All of which brings me to the 4th of July, Independence Day, and being appreciative of where we live. This is a celebration to mark the beginning of the United States from sea to shining sea and northern to southern edges. We celebrate all of us, no matter who or where, but being distracted with fireworks and picnics may lead us to forget why we are celebrating.  Our original goals of freedom and opportunity for everyone should be part of our agenda year-round. We have honed and improved original laws by realizing that women are capable people who can actually think and vote, that persons of whatever skin color are not possessions, that children are not fair game for cheap labor. We have laws in place to assist those with disabilities. There are still people among us, who disregard the ethics of humanity, and others who still suffer beneath injustice, but most of us keep trying to right wrongs. I would remind us of what is engraved on the Statue of Liberty, welcoming ships into New York’s harbor: “Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame, with conquering limbs astride from land to land; Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand a mighty woman with a torch, whose flame is the imprisoned lightening, and her name Mother of Exiles.  From her beacon-hand glows world-wide welcome, her mild eyes command the air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.  ‘Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!’ cries she with silent lips.  ‘Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore.  Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden door!’”*

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In the 240+ years’ process of creating our country, we have been cruel – and compassionate; overbearing and courageous; we’ve been grasping and we’ve also made sacrifices. We have made grave errors in policy and behavior, but we have also tried to create safety nets, correct injustices and continually work for better things.  It is true that we often disagree about what those “better things” are, or how to achieve them.  Too often, we work at cross-purposes. But we do try.  I think each of us has a responsibility to do what we can in our own spheres. We sometimes ignore needs and protest helpful legislation because we selfishly don’t like, or are frightened of change. But without change water grows stagnant, there’d be no butterflies, we’d still be shouting “OLE” to the monarch of Span, or singing “God save the queen!” (or king) of England. Our country is great because of the wonderful mix of our citizens and because we pay attention to individual fairness. Developing orderly procedures and good laws is essential, but let us not be selfish and uncaring as we move ahead in a way that means living out the words engraved on that statue.

We are about to drift from Junet into July; usually our warmest month and possibly the most humid here in the north-east, although last week was as about as hot and humid as one might wish to bear.  July was named for Julius Caesar; it was his birth month. The gem stone for July is the ruby, a jewel nearly as hard as a diamond. It stands for strength, vigor, and supposedly shields its wearer from the world’s ills. The month’s flower is the larkspur, a sturdy flower that blooms in many bright colors.  July is swimming and ice cream weather. For farmers, there will be second cuttings of hay, if the rains and sun come in proper amounts. County Fairs and festivals bring fun to town. Whatever you do in July - picnics, reunions, swimming, vacations - I hope you are filled to the brim with happiness and peace. Absorb sunshine (carefully, of course), be grateful for the rains and fill your heart with all the goodness and generosity of summer.

 

Carol writes from her home in Spencer. She may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net.

* The New Colossus and engraved on the statue of Liberty……….by Emma Lazarus.  Emma Lazarus, an American poet who wrote this poem to raise money for the base of the Statue of Liberty.

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