Some Summer Days in Iowa
Some Summer Days in Iowa
Frederick John Lazell
A book of the seasons, each page of which should be written inits own season and out of doors, or in its own locality, whereverit may be.—thoreau
CEDAR RAPIDS, IOWA
THE TORCH PRESS
NINETEEN HUNDRED NINE
Fred J. Lazell
Like the two preceding little volumes of this series, this book seeksto show something of what Iowa has to offer to the man who loves theout-of-doors. There is nothing very unusual in it. The trees and theflowers, the birds and the small wild animals which it mentions anddescribes are such as may be seen in the Iowa fields and woods byanyone who cares enough about them to walk amid their haunts. Theillustrations are such as the ordinary nature lover may "take" forhimself with his pocket kodak. The woodthrush built in a thicket bythe bungalow and borrowed a paper napkin for her nest. The chipmunkcame every morning for his slice of bread. And then the woodchucklearned to be unafraid.
It has long been the author's belief that Iowa has just as much tooffer the nature lover as any other part of the world—that she hasindeed a richer flora than many states—and that every[Pg 8] true Iowanought to know something of her trees and shrubs and herbs, her birdsand animals, and to feel something of the beauty of her skies and herlandscapes. There is so much beauty all around us, every day of theyear, shall we not sometimes lift our eyes to behold it?
The majority of Iowa people still find pleasure in the simple life,still have the love for that which Nature so freely bestows. They findtime to look upon the beauty of the world. Many a busy man finds hisbest recreation in the woods and fields. It may be only a few hourseach week, but it is enough to keep the music of the flowing watersever in his ears and the light of the sunshine in his eyes. It isenough to give the men and the women of the state wholesome views oflife, happy hearts and broad sympathies. Some few find in the woodsand fields thoughts and feelings which are, to them, almost akin toreligion. If this little book helps such lovers of the out-of-doorsever so little; if it shall help others to see for themselves thebeauty and the joy and the goodness of this world in which we live,the author will feel that it has been worth while.
In the old woods road a soft haze hung, too subtle to see save whereits delicate colorings were contrasted against the dark green leavesof the oaks beyond the fence. Not the tangible, vapory haze of earlymorning, but a tinted, ethereal haze, the visible effluence of thesummer, the nimbus of its power and glory. From tall cord grassesarching over the side of the road, drawing water from the ditch inwhich their feet were bathed and breathing it into the air with thescent of their own greenness; from the transpiration of the trees,shrubs and vines, flowers and mosses and ferns, from billions of poresin acres of leaves it came streaming into the sunlight, vanishingquickly, yet ever renewed, as surely as the little brook where thegrasses drank and the grackles fished for tadpoles and young frogs,was replenished by the hidden spring. Mingled with it and floating init was another stream of life, the innumerable living[Pg 12] organisms thatmake up the dust of the sunshine. Pink and white, black and yellowspores from the mushrooms over the fence in the pasture; pollen pushedfrom the glumes of the red top grasses and the lilac spires of thehedge nettle and germander by the roadside; shoals of spores from themosses and ferns by the trees and in the swamp; all these lifeparticles rose and floated in the haze, giving it tints and meaningsstrangely sweet. When a farmer's buggy passed along the old road thehaze became a warm pink, like some western sky in the evening, slowlyclearing again to turquoise as the dust settled. Viewed in this way,the haze became a mighty, broad-mouthed river of life, fed by billionsof tiny streams and moving ever toward the vast ocean of the sunlight.Faintly visible to the discerning eye, it was also audible to theattentive ear, listening as one listens at the edge of a field in thenight time to hear the growing of the corn. If all the millions ofleaves had ceased their transpiration, if this flow of life had beenshut off, as the organist pushes in the tremolo stop, the sound of thesummer would not have[Pg 13] been the same. Something of the strength andjoy of the summer was in it. Drinking deeply of it the body wasinvigorated and the heart grew glad. In it the faith of the winter'sbuds and the hope of the spring's tender leaves found richfulfillment. Theirs was a life of hope and promise that theresurrection should come; this was the glorious life after theresurrection, faith lost in sight and patient hope crowned.
Slender white minarets of the Culver's root, rising from green towersabove the leafy architecture of the woodland undergrowth and reachingtoward the light of the sky, told the time of the year as plainly asif a muezzin had appeared on one of its leafy balconies and proclaimeda namaz for the middle of July. Beholding them from afar, honey beescame on humming wings for the nectar lying deep in their tiny florets.Eager stamens reached out far beyond the blossoms to brush the bees'backs with precious freights of pollen to be transported to thestigmas of older flowers. Playing each its part in the plan of theuniverse, flower and insect added[Pg 14] its mite to the life and theloveliness of the summer. From the sunshine and the soil-water thelong leaves manufactured food for the growth of the plant. Prettilynotched, daintily tapering, and arranged in star-like whorls about thestem, they enhanced the beauty of the flowers above them and attractedthe observer to the exquisite order governing their growth. When theleaves were arranged in whorls of four, the floral spires werequadruple, like the pinnacles on a church tower; if the green towerswere hexagonal, then six white minarets pointed to the sky. Theperfect order of the solar system and the majesty of the Mind whichplanned it, was manifested in this single plant. So does beauty leadthe way to the mountain tops of truth. By the road of earthly beautywe may always reach religion and truth is ever beckoning us to new andnobler visions. That "thread of the all-sustaining beauty, which runsthrough all and doth all unite" gently leads us from the things whichare tangible and temporal to the truths which are spiritual andeternal; from the beauty of the concrete to the beauty of theabstract, onward[Pg 15] along the road of beauty and farther up the heightsof truth until our admiration for the beauty of the sunrise, the snowcrystal, the graceful spray of the trees in winter, the exquisiteorder and harmony of the universe from the orbit of the largest planetto the flow of life in the tiniest leaf, develops into a lasting lovefor beauty in life and in character; and still farther up the heightsinto an atmosphere of intelligent, rational, genuine love for theGreat First Cause of all beauty. As the heart opens to receive thebeauty of the world, as the mind and soul strive, like the plants, forthe highest development, so is the world redeemed from error and crimeand the perfection of the race is attained. If one soul finds thistruth more quickly and easily here amid the trees and flowers, for himis the old road greater than religious dogmas or social systems.
Always beautiful and interesting, in these long days of mid-July theold road is at its best. No length of day can measure its lovelinessor encompass its charm. Very early in the morning there is a faintrustle of the leaves, a delicate flutter through the woods as if theawakening birds are shaking out their wings. Shrubs and bushes andtrunks of trees have ghostly shapes in the few strange moments thatare neither the darkness nor the dawn. As the light steals through thewoods their forms grow less grotesque. In the half light a phoebebegins her shrill song. A blue-jay screams. The quail sounds his first"Bob White." Brown thrashers in the thicket—it is past their time ofsinging—respond with a strange, sibilant sound, a mingled hiss andwhistle, far different from his ringing songs of May, now onlymemories; different also from her scoldings when she was disturbed onher nest and from her tender crooning calls to her babies during June.
As the light increases waves of delicate color appear in the sky tothe northeast, and by and by the sun's face appears over the tops ofthe trees. He shoots arrows of pale flame through the woods. In theclearing the trunks of the trees are like cathedral pillars, and thesunlight comes down in slanting rays as if the openings among thetree-tops were windows and the blue haze beneath the incense of themorning mass. Black-capped precentor of the avian choir, the chickadeesounds two sweet tones, clear and musical, like keynotes blown from asilver pipe. The wood thrush sounds a few organ tones, resonant andthrilling. It is almost his last summer service; soon, like thethrashers, he will be drooping and silent. The chewink, the indigobird, the glad goldfinches, the plaintive pewees are the sopranos; theblue-bird, the quail, with her long, sweet call, and the grosbeak,with his mellow tones, are the altos; the nuthatch and the tanagertake up the tenor, while the red-headed woodpeckers, the crows and thecuckoos bear down heavy on the bass. Growing with the light, the fugueswells into crescendo. Lakes of sunshine and capes of shadow down theold road are more sharply defined. Bushes of tall, white melilot,clustered with myriads of tiny flowers, exhale a sweet fragrance intothe morning air. The clearing around the house is flooded withsunlight. In the wooded pasture some trunks are bathed with a goldenglory, while others yet stand iron[Pg 18] gray in the deep shadows. Theworld is awake. The day's work begins. One late young redhead in ahole high up in the decaying trunk of an aspen tree calls loudly forhis breakfast, redoubling his noise as his mother approaches with thefirst course. Sitting clumsily on a big stump, a big baby cowbird,well able to shift for himself, shamelessly takes food from his littlefield sparrow foster-mother, scarcely more than half his size. Soon hewill leave her and join the flocks of his kindred in the oat-fieldsand the swamps. Young chewinks are being fed down among the ripeningMay-apples in the pasture. A catbird with soft "quoots" assembles herfamily in the hazel and the wood-thrush sounds warning "quirts" asfancied peril approaches her children beneath the ripeningblackberries. From the top of a tall white oak a red squirrel leaps tothe arching branches of an elm, continuing his foraging there. Sittingstraight up on a mossy log the chipmunk holds in his paws a bit ofbread thrown from somebody's basket, nibbles at it for a while andthen makes a dash for the thicket, carrying the bread in his mouth.
Tiny rabbits venture out from the tall grasses and look on life withtimid eyes. Bees and butterflies are busy with the day's work. Lifewith its beauty and its joy is everywhere abundant. Living things swimin and upon the brook, insects run and leap among the grasses, wingedcreatures are in the shrubs, the trees, the air, active, eager,beautiful life is everywhere. The heart thrills with the beauty, thejoy, the zest,