For the Beauty of All the Earth

Magnolia tree at Yule Love It after a wind storm
I hear the drone of distant traffic before dawn, 18-wheelers shifting gears to birdsong.
The first ray of sun illuminates the dew and green earth freckled with dandelions. Our flowering magnolia tree stands as pink as it can be in a moment of glory.
After a good night’s rest, I’m refreshed enough to sense the blessedness of a new day, allow memory to carry me where it will—Aunt June and Uncle Lou, childhood neighbors, for instance.
My sisters and I adopted the childless couple in recompense to their multitude of invitations to their backyard picnic table. They also welcomed the kids on our end and side of the block on Wagner Street.
On our knees weeding her spacious gardens one day, Aunt June introduced me to Jack in the Pulpit. Since I loved playing in dirt, I asked Mom if Aunt June could adopt me every once in a while. There wasn’t one flowering shrub or blade of grass to clothe our new, naked home.

Jack in the Pulpit
        I would pedal my blue bike past Aunt June’s porch in hopes to see her outside. If I spied her sleeveless white shirt and dark shorts, I’d brake for conversation and gardening. One summer day she popped us corn in her kitchen. Just Aunt June and me.
When Dad’s lawn grew in, he built a kite and a reel for string and launched his kite-flying hobby. I preferred racing my bike up and down the smooth sidewalk with my playmates.
For relaxation and good luck, my Irish father hunted four-leaf clovers in our front and backyard. In all earnest, he displayed his harvest on the mirror behind his barber chair for his customer’s commentaries. He believed in those clovers.
He’d roll his manpowered lawnmower out of the garage and give his turf a haircut. Once, while removing wet clumps of grass from the blades, he accidentally cut his fingers. I remember blood pouring from the wounds. He refused stitches and barbered with a bandaged hand.

 As robins gather scraps from my gardens for nests, I reminisce opening track season, freezing fourteen springs in bleachers with other parents. June of 1987, the year our firstborn won the 200 Meter Championship in Class D, seems like yesterday. And a century ago.
I traverse the perennial geography of memory and know this peace is fleeting. Soon, machines of various styles of man’s invention will emerge from garages and barns, lubed and tuned to tackle soil, shrubs, and trees.
Dear Reader, long before gas powered lawnmowers and electric hedge trimmers appeared on our American scene, a young Englishman named Folliot S. Pierpoint wrote a hymn that sums up my sentiments.

For the beauty of the hour
Of the day and of the night
Hill and vale and tree and flower
Sun and moon and stars of light

For the joy of human love
Brother, sister, parent, child
Friends on earth and friends above
For all gentle thoughts and mild
For all gentle thoughts and mild

Lord of all, to thee we raise
This our joyful hymn of praise