June Bug Summer

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And yet day and night meet fleetingly at twilight and dawn and their merging sometimes affords the beholder the most enchanted moments of all the twenty-four hours. – Mary Balogh

Summer evenings growing up in the South were imbued with an enchantment  that is lost when children stop playing hide and seek and tag; before the world reaches out and places demands on their dreams and the fleeting freeness of childhood slips away like vapor in the hot morning sun.

While I might have played all day, stopping every now and then to eat and help my mother with washing or gardening, it is night that the real fun begins. The shadows become playmates as my sister and I hide from each other in secret places that only exist in the twilight. Tree frogs, cicadas and crickets each sing with their unique timbre in concert with the persistent call of the whippoorwills, “whip OR will, whip OR will, whip OR will”; the resulting cacophony sounding like an orchestra tuning individual instruments before merging together to create the ever-changing song of nature. Sometimes I imitate the lonesome call of the Bob white quail, whistling “Bob white” with a lilt at the end of the white and soon I receive an answer from a hopeful suitor and we call back to each other for a while. When I stop he calls a few more times before his plaintive calls abruptly stop and he beds down for the night alone and disappointed.

The daring moths, drawn to the glow of the bare-bulb light on the porch, fling themselves on the hot glass and fall mortally wounded on the planks below. The more timid moths satisfy their craving for light by clinging to the screen door with their tiny stick feet, looking at the inside lights like sinners outside the Pearly Gates, condemned to only experience the warmth of the celestial luminescence from afar.

In spite of all the noise from the nighttime serenade, there is stillness to the evening that is a feeling more than a reality. It is the time when belief in fairies and elves seems possible and each shadow quivers, not from something fearsome, but something wonderful that just might come to out to dance with us in the moonlight if the magic is strong enough.

Glossy green June bugs dive bomb our heads and if we hold out our hands sometimes they land, surprising agile in spite of their chunky bodies. They fold their veiny parchment wings underneath their hard iridescent shells and explore, sometimes tickling us as they suck the salty sweat from our palms. Finding no other delights they open their wings and buzz off into the night and vanish like fighter pilots on solitary missions into the unknown.

As the night matures the darkness is punctuated with the bright yellow phosphorescent glow of lightning bugs, blinking off and on, tempting us to catch and contain them in clear Mason jars with lids that mother punched holes in with a hammer and nail so their temporary prison is confining but livable.  On moonless nights we turn the porch light off so the only light that pushes back the dark is the pulsating eerie yellow glow from our captive torchbearers. Having shared the gift of light with us we release them to spread their wonderfulness over our farm as all creatures great and small breathe in the last of the summer magic and sleepily close our eyes to welcome the forgiving arms of our dreams.

Copyright © 2015 Kathleen Gunderman

Maine-The Way Life Should Be

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Did you ever see a place that looks like it was built just to enjoy? Well, this whole state of Maine looks that way to me. – Will Rogers

Maine is a state that always had an allure for me. It conjured thoughts of cool summers, busy harbors and snowy winters. My husband Bill has a neurological disorder and hot weather makes him miserable. In February of 1994, it was over 100 degrees for over a week in South Georgia and he was going down before my eyes. On a visit to his neurologist I asked if we moved to a cooler climate would it help Bill’s condition. He said it might but he couldn’t say for sure. I was willing to do anything to make sure Bill didn’t deteriorate any further and working for the Federal government I had the opportunity to apply for jobs in other states. That night we made a list of 37 states with cooler climates we thought we would like to live in and I started to apply for anything I was remotely qualified for.

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About five months later I got a call from a representative of the USDA in Maine offering me a job which I eagerly accepted. He said, “You know, your accent is going to stick out up here.” Without missing a beat I replied, “What accent?” We made the arrangements to move and my husband two daughters and I drove to Maine and I remained there for eight years living in Northern and Downeast Maine. We left Maine for other opportunities but we always felt like we had left a piece of our hearts there. My oldest daughter, her husband and two children still lived there.  In 2009 with retirement nearing, my husband and I decided we wanted to go back to Maine and make that our home. We went back to Presque Isle in Northern Maine where we first lived and when I saw the town again I was so overwhelmed with a sense of returning home that I was moved to tears.

The worst thing about living in Maine for me is the long, long winters. We always have a white Halloween and the snow doesn’t leave until May. And by snow I mean a lot of snow. We don’t measure it in inches, but in feet. But I learned to snowshoe and cross country ski and even in the late spring when I think I will scream from the claustrophobia of interminable winter, the sight of snow falling gently outside my window still captivates me with its beauty.

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Maine is the most easterly point of the U.S., and Eastport, Me is the first place in the country to receive the rays of the sun each morning. The Appalachian Trail ends on beautiful Mt. Katahdin that rises 5,268’ above the forested Maine woods. Almost 90 percent of Maine is forested and it has as much coastline as California. And Maine even has a 40 acre desert that was created when a glacier slid through Maine leaving behind sand and mineral deposits about 11,000 years ago.

Famous Mainers include poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow, actor Patrick Dempsey, director John Ford and author Stephen King. And our most famous native son is Leon Leonwood Bean, founder of the retail giant, L.L. Bean. And we were blessed with the nation’s youngest ambassador, Samantha Smith, 10, who wrote to Soviet Union leader Yuri Andropov expressing her fears about a nuclear war between his country and the U.S.  Andropov wrote her back and in 1983 she and her parents were guests of Andropov for two weeks. Tragically this brave young girl was killed in a plane crash when she was 13.

Maine’s motto is “The Way Life Should Be.” That about says it all. It has outstanding natural beauty and wildlife but Maine’s people are its greatest asset. While someone who was not born here will always be “from away”, the people are welcoming and easily make a place for you in their communities. They make the best neighbors in the world for slightly socially awkward people like my husband and me.  They are there for you when you need them, but don’t force themselves upon you. They are rugged individualists who respect the right of people to be who they want to be.

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Two summers ago we bought 80 acres and put a cabin there and it is our goal to eventually live there fulltime. It has a beautiful stream running through it and I love spending every moment I can there.  I suffer from PTSD from working in Afghanistan for over two years and it is my haven. It is the only place in this world that I feel completely safe and at peace. We usually go early in the morning and my husband cuts wood and I clear brush. We have established a series of trails for hiking and snowshoeing and while it is exhausting work to clear the land, it frees me like nothing else can. To take a tangled mass of overgrown brush and turn it into a beautiful trail through quiet evergreen woods, revealing beauty as I go, is a metaphor for my life at this point in time. Just as I am clearing out the unwanted vegetation from my land I am clearing out the mass of tangled, thorny memories locked in my brain and making room for beautiful new memories to grow. Maine is doing that for me. It is my chosen home for the rest of my life. And although every year around March I really hate the lingering winter, I know that summer will be here again and I can walk my trails and think this is the way life should be.