To learn more about this yearlong adventure with Gladys Taber and Rachel Peden, I have made a 'letter topic' called A Year with Gladys and Rachel, where you may read all the postings.
It has been said by many, including myself, that Gladys Taber would have been a great blogger. In essence her topics are like blog entries - some long, some short, some light, some serious. Her mind moves from one thing to another, and her subjects sometimes connect and other times stand on their own.
Gladys' July chapter in Stillmeadow Daybook was especially so. She runs the gamut from the frustrations of having to replace her lost driver's license to the rich and famous who have moved to her area to the deep joys of poetry, particularly her beloved John Keats. And the wonder of her writing for me is that it is so current. Though published in 1955, her thoughts are familiar and easily understood by a reader fifty-six years later.
We no longer live in an age of poetry, that is certain. I suspect the roar of the big guns in our day has muffled its rhythms. But there will always be people who find a quickening in poetry that nothing else gives, for poetry is a more direct communication than prose. …When she explains she sees that he isn't really listening. But still this doesn't discourage Gladys Taber because she feels that
Having been raised with poetry, I am astounded at the lack of it in young people nowadays. … recently a young man asked me, "just what is a sonnet anyway?"
Dante is still Dante and Shakepeare is still Shakespeare and always someone - as long as we are on this odd little planet - someone will read "When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes, I all alone bewail my outcast state." Or "Life has not friend; her converts late or soon, Slide back to feed the dragon with the moon."Her words about July are so perfect and so true in my part of the world.
Hot still days come now, with heat simmering over the fields, crackling in the long corn rows.She delights in her dog's love of ice cubes, and bemoans the dreaded Japanese beetle. She writes about the 'end of seasonal food' now that there are home freezers. This is Gladys Taber in a nutshell. She writes of the profound and the simple, and the profundity which lies within the apparent simple. If you have not read her, please pick up a book and see if she doesn't speak to the modern person as well as the person in her time. I know she speaks to me, and feels like a great friend. All I have to do is open a book, read a few words, and I am happily in her wise and comfortable presence.
The sky is wonderful in July, it seems deeper and farther off someway than at any other time, a silken, burning blue. The thermometer jumps like a jumping mouse, and the beans ripen like mad.
This is the dry month in New England, so when it rains, we are grateful. It is the only time we are grateful for rain, rain being our chief product come summer, come winter. But in July how sweetly sounds the patter on the old roof, and how grateful is the lawn.
The Farmer's Almanac says, "Days are hot, nights are not." This about sums up July in New England for it is hot and humid and you can feel the corn growing and the cherries ripening, and yet at night a cooling air blows in from woods and streams. If we sit by the pond, we need sweaters and as far as I am concerned, I never take the winter blankets off my bed all summer long.
Summer is so brief, so packed with living, I hate to see each day end.
In quite a few Julys here on the blog, I have either posted the song or the lyrics or just the one pertinent line from the song, You Go To My Head: 'like a summer with a thousand Julys.' You must know by now that I am a cool weather, winter loving person, but oh, I do love July. There is none of the anticipation of June or the sadness of August. In July we simply are. We live. We take great pleasure in each day.
Rachel Peden expresses this at the end of her July chapter of Rural Free.
I cannot bear to give up summer yet. I am glad sultry August is yet to come.But she begins the month by calling this wonderful July:
A mellow, generous, middle-aged, productive month with a thought for the past in its misty blue mornings and a thought for the future in the first tentative creakings of cricket and barfly - July has a thorough, gusty enjoyment of the present moment.I'll bet she loved You Go To My Head, too.
She writes of the abundance of the garden
lavish with green beans, hints of roasting ears, cantaloupe, cucumbers to be sliced as thin as paper and crisp as a new five-dollar bill. The smell of new beets cooking in the kitchen fills the farmhouse. The first ripe tomato this week was an event [as it was in my house a few days ago!], but two weeks from now the planters will "eat them as common things" as the book of Jeremiah says, describing abundance.From the annual fireworks display on the Fourth to the death of a beetle she had vainly tried to save, Rachel writes with the soul of a poet. After telling about some of her farming neighbors, she says:
Dear Lord, let farming continue to improve forever, but let the neighbors never change.She describes perfectly the kind of fellow who loves to talk and tell the 'news.' And if you ask him a question, he can be off on a long-lasting tale of explanation. She tells how picking blackberries can be a little vacation for the farm wife. In the midst of a thorny blackberry patch is not a popular place for most people so it is there she can be 'blissfully alone' and nobody could find her to 'ask a single question.' But then of course, her dear husband and children appear
"How're you making out?" Dick asked from the fence at the edge of the woods. He smiled lovingly, his face beaming like a full sun, and on either side of him, like bright moons, beamed two small, beloved faces.How I would love to have known this woman. To have cooked together in her kitchen or walked together in her fields. Across all these years since Rural Free was published fifty years ago, I feel I have a friend.
"How did you know where to look for me?" I asked.
"Why," explained Dick, pleased with himself and them, "we saw the sun shining on your bucket." The vacation was over and not one single "having a wonderful time, wish you were here" card had I sent to anybody.