I felt drunk. On an August day in my Toronto backyard I lay in my hammock intoxicated with Nature’s sweet largesse.
Green surrounded me, above, beside, and below, celadon, lime, jade, olive. The hammock hung above my scrubby lawn whose grass was threaded by plantain and clover. I looked up through a thousand leaves that sprouted from a giant Manitoba Maple, a “junk” tree as foresters call it, not one of the sturdiest species. But really, what benighted soul could classify this fractal wonder as “junk”? Look at its angling branches long enough and awe creeps in.
On either side of me grew ferns, Lilies of the Valley and Spirea bushes, all foliage at this time of year. Leaves and grass blades flagged nature’s irrepressible life.
The sunny aqua sky held a few popcorn clouds. Random breezes tickled the maple leaves into shimmying and I saw that the same wind was creating a dance floor out of the lawn, with roaming spots of light and shadow.
Cicadas’ loud whirring filled the air. Clutches of sparrows dashed here and there from lilac to forsythia shrubs, twittering their familiar chatter. A finch whistled soprano notes. I searched for him and spied his flashy yellow feathers accessorized smartly with black. He perched on the stalk of a mustard-yellow yarrow plant in my neighbour’s garden. Nearby, puffs of brilliant white phlox stretched in the warm light, looking like fluffy clouds themselves.
High above it all, swallows flew spectacular swoops while peeping modestly.
As if to underline the abundance, two monarch butterflies floated in to settle on the milkweed plants next door. Suffusion of beauty.
Then an unannounced circus act began.
One of the resident squirrel gymnasts began to tight-rope along a telephone wire 12 feet in the air. Half-way across the yard she lost her balance and swung upside down, still clutching the wire from below with all four paws. Embarrassed, I’m sure, she seemed to pretend that her slip was part of the act and carried on rapidly, now hanging beneath the wire, scrambling toward the nearest pole. When she was safely upright again she shook herself off, ignored my laughing applause, and ran out of sight.
With one foot I gently rocked the hammock, wishing everyone could have such joy.
by Gerard Manley Hopkins
Glory be to God for dappled things –
For skies of couple-colour as a brinded cow;
For rose-moles all in stipple upon trout that swim;
Fresh-firecoal chestnut-falls; finches’ wings;
Landscape plotted and pieced – fold, fallow, and plough;
And áll trádes, their gear and tackle and trim.
All things counter, original, spare, strange;
Whatever is fickle, freckled (who knows how?)
With swift, slow; sweet, sour; adazzle, dim;
He fathers-forth whose beauty is past change: