Tuesday, June 20, 2023

June Daze: Sumer Is Icumin in*

Morning sky, last day of Spring 2023

'Tis really only the last day of spring, and although it's in my nature to celebrate seasonal changes--like tomorrow's solstice--most of what's worth anticipating is a (probably short) respite from the week's long Excessive Heat Warnings we've been living through for much of the month. That and quarter-sized hail and a scary, noisy night last week.

In fact, it hasn't really been all that bad; we've managed to avoid turning on an air conditioner until about 10 am each morning, and we have time to spend out of doors before shutting all the windows and drawing all the blinds and curtains. Even this morning, which required air-con to dispel the absurd humidity in the house at 6 am, gave us cool enough outdoor temperatures to get a few garden chores done. The Beloved Spouse mowed the back green patch, and I got a bit of bronze fennel transplanted into a pot to help keep our one black swallowtail caterpillar alive until he's ready to build his chrysalis. More on that in a bit.

At any rate, it's 90 F ("feels like" 100) now at noon, and we may actually be heading out of the worst of the heat. At least until the week-end, when we'll probably hit a genuine 100-102. So I plan to get out and frolic tomorrow morning when it's only 77; or maybe wait a day until it's down to 73.

So far, for most of the week, I've managed to get out with animals at breakfast and do the crossword, TBS has had some tennis practice, and my one wee beastie of a caterpillar has managed to fatten up on my now-depleted fennel plant without having been lunched upon by cardinals or anoles. This morning I managed to move him onto the newly potted fennel now housed in the butterfly haven I bought a few years ago but haven't yet used. A couple of days previously I had enveloped him in a mesh bag, but his new quarters are portable and there's much more food:

Black Swallowtail caterpillar in mesh bag shelter

New digs; note eggs above stick

Stick on left, caterpillar on right; not sure where the eggs are

What I didn't know until a few minutes ago, was that before I'd made off with the bronze fennel planted in another part of the garden, eggs had been laid on it! They look like more black swallowtail ova, and as a species they are fond of fennel, so we'll see. This does mean that if they hatch, I'll need to find some more fennel. 

The Canadian wildfire haze did get down to us, but blew away quickly. Still, those ominous photos of orange skies in New York City were rather too close to those depicted in the Apple+ series I mentioned last month (Extrapolations). An article in the New York Times this morning by Paul Bogard, "We're Watching the Sky as We Know It Disappear," noted the recent wildfire smoke in the Minnesota Lake Country, lamented the changes we're all beginning to notice. Bogart edited Solastalgia: An Anthology of Emotion in a Disappearing World, which is high on my reading list. I first learned the term, "solastalgia" from an entry in Climate Words. Coined by Aussie philosopher Glenn Albrecht, it's used "to describe the feelings of anxiety and sorrow that follow immediate impacts to our environments." "Algia" comes from the Greek for "pain" (algos). Although we use it today mostly to refer to body-related pain (e. g. neuralgia), to Homer it was more akin to suffering, as in grief. The "solas" part is from Latin: solacium (comfort, as in solace). The etymology of most neologisms can be problematic, but this one seems to offer hope in context. But the notion of being unsettled, sad, even angry about climate change--especially if we're aware of it and seem to be pretty powerless to stem the rate of change or to mitigate it, is hard to live with.

Maybe that's why I derive such satisfaction from figuring out how to save a (potential) butterfly, or re-wild some of my little yard. The bunnies and the 'possums may not all make it, but maybe some of them will. And even though the cardinals and anoles may be deprived of a fat larval form of butterfly (or more!), there are plenty of mosquitoes and other varieties of bird and reptile noshes available.

And maybe that's why I've been so heartened in the last couple of days to see articles in the Daily Poop* about regenerative farming and family farms in general. Today's front page featured an article on agritourism and soil replenishment: "Farmers market of agritourism? One is 'like buying local on steroids,' farmer says; reducing tillage and increasing soil organic matter are part of regenerative agriculture." On Friday, along with my delivery from Profound Foods, I found the latest issue of Edible: Dallas Fort Worth. In addition to its usual fare (ahem), there is a lovely article about Sister Grove Farm. The owners, Sarah and Rodney Macias, bought a plot of historic Texas farmland in 2016 and have turned it into a working farm and a retreat that fosters responsible living on the land. She quotes people I already love (Robin Wall Kimmerer and Wendell Berry), and the way of life they've made for themselves near Van Alstyne is truly inspiring. 

It does seem that every time I get all grumpy and pessimistic, a few items pop up here and there that lift me up a little, and give me time to reflect on the fact that 1) I'm not dead yet (again; I'll write about that later) and 2) I have a pretty damned good life, all things considered.

Like nostalgia--the combination of sweetness and sadness about home enmeshed in memory--perhaps learning to understand how solastalgia fits into this new world can help us negotiate new ways of approaching modern problems that promise some hope for what comes next.

Happy summer, People. Lhude sing cuccu!***


*On the Canon quoted in my title (Sumer is icumen in): this is a lovely Medieval English song for several voices to be sung in a round. The author(s) are unknown, but may be either W. de Wycombe or John of Fornsete. For an image of the manuscript, its history, the words (both original Middle English and in translation), see the Wikipedia page linked. This is a wonderful poem to read, or song to listen to, on the Summer solstice.

**My irreverent nickname for The Dallas Morning News, to which we subscribe and which we read daily.

***"Sumer is icumen in, Lhude sing cuccu! (Summer has come in, Loudly sing, Cuckoo!)