The 172nd Day of the Year
The glorious lamp of heaven, the sun,
the higher he’s a-getting,
The sooner will his race be run,
And nearer he’s to setting.
Day’s Length: 15 hours 1 minute
Average Hi/Lo: 83/62
Average Temperature: 72
Record High: 98 – 1988
Record Low: 48 – 1897
Highs in the 60s occur five percent of the time on this date, 70s come on ten percent of the afternoons, 80s on 70 percent, and 90s on 15 percent. The sun appears nine years in ten, but thunderstorms pass through 30 percent of the time. Morning lows in the 40s come only five to ten percent of the time; 50s occur on 25 percent of the nights; 60 percent of the nights are in the 60s, and ten percent are in the 70s
Solstice marks the end of Early Summer in Yellow Springs, but time is also space; movement and distance can take the season backwards or forwards, allowing what was and still will be to ride the hinge of the sun’s declination. North in Maine, azaleas and columbine are still bright. Lupines hold in Bar Harbor. Foxglove and privet are budding in Bangor, strawberries just ripening. Through the valleys of Vermont, the wheat is deep green wheat (it’s golden-brown, almost ready to cut in Indiana). Parsnips are opening in New Hampshire as they go to seed in Tennessee. In upstate New York, catalpas are still flowering, and peonies are still in bloom.
The flora of the upper Midwest reaffirms the Late Spring and Early Summer of the Northeast. The blossoms of mock orange are still fragrant in Minneapolis. Multiflora roses and the petals of blackberries repeat Cincinnati May. Cottonwood cotton is drifting across the arboretum in Madison, Wisconsin. The thistles are stronger, the hemlock fresher, cattails more delicate and flushed with pollen all across the northern plains.
West in the Rocky Mountains, lupines are in full bloom at 4,000 feet, lilacs and early iris are coming in above 6,000 feet. Southern Ohio April appears in fields of dandelions and spring beauties at 7,000 feet. At 8,000 feet, the heartleaf arnica, like a yellow bloodroot, pushes Middle Atlantic time almost to the end of March.
Then down toward the Pacific, the landscape collapses forward toward a Yellow Springs June. From Tillamook to the ocean, cow parsnips, yarrow, moth mullein, yellow sweet cover, meadow goat’s beard, milkweed and great mullein line the roads.
1983: At Grinnell Swamp: Golden Alexander, henbit, yellow and white sweet clover, privet, angelica, white violets, clustered snakeroot, honewort, forget-me-nots, moneywort, yarrow, fleabane, wild garlic, white waterleaf, black medic all in bloom. Catchweed has burs, foliage yellow. May apples leaves are spotted and old. Decaying garlic mustard leans across the undergrowth.
1984: First monarch butterfly caterpillar found in the carrots. At the Covered Bridge: a third of the parsnips, angelica, and hemlock going to seed. Wingstem and tall coneflowers are five feet high, avens flowering, honewort going to seed, multiflora roses completely gone, damselflies and daddy longlegs everywhere, first spotted touch-me-not and first yellow touch-me-not blooming, white flowered waterleaf and the late henbit still in bloom.
1985: A field cricket heard chirping in the yard last night. Most black raspberries gone.
1986: The sun rose over the house across the street at 60 degrees on the compass; if I’d been able to see it on the horizon, it probably would have been at 45 degrees, all the way northeast. I watched it go down over Fairborn at 310 degrees through the trees, close to perfect northwest.
1987: The inner woods seemed tattered this afternoon, some leaves yellowing, grasses turning. Along the railroad tracks, Deep Summer’s wild lettuce was budding. Avens was in full bloom.
1988: Belize City: Cactus at the Fort George Hotel blossoming at the same time as in our greenhouse in Yellow Springs. Summer solstice in Belize: the sun rises at 5:19 a.m., sets at 6:30 p.m., the day 13 hours 11 minutes long: in Yellow Springs: 15 hours 1 minute. North to the Mexican border: some sugar cane three to four feet high, other fields just emerging. Blue and white dayflowers, ipomoea throughout, just like in Yellow Springs. A waiter at Altun Ha told me that corn is planted here at the middle to the end of May, just before the rains begin. The Central American corn cycle, then, basically follows that of the Midwest.
1989: At South Glen, seeds have formed on half the angelica and maybe a third of the parsnips. First flowers on the wood nettle filling up the undergrowth. Orchard grass brown and old, English rye grass full, bottle grass late bloom, brome grass very late, some timothy still tender, damselflies common, mosquitoes pesky. First touch-me-not, first thimble plant in bloom. Nodding and Canadian thistles still full bloom. Blackberries have set fruit. Panicum clandestinum just emerging. Multiflora roses are fading, along with some Japanese honeysuckle. Burning bush, Euonymus atropurpureus, found full bloom at South Glen. Four cedar waxwings sighted along the river.
1996: I was doing exercises in the greenhouse before daylight and was surprised by something flying around me. I thought it might be a cecropia moth, but it turned out to be a bat that had somehow gotten inside. I opened the back door, and after a few swoops, it went out. Today the white mulberries were falling heavily to the sidewalk and the street.
1998: Indigo bunting seen by the pond today. Campanula opened in the east garden, the first purple coneflower unraveled completely along the fence, and the first rose of Sharon bloomed along the street. Trumpet vines and Rugosa roses are full now. Wheat is brown. Five Japanese beetles in the roses, the most so far.
1999: Return to Yellow Springs after almost two weeks in Maine: dry here like across the Northeast, but crops holding. Birds still sing in the morning chorus, crows joining in near 5:00 a.m. The wheat is champagne brown. There are fields of thistle down, patches of daylilies. The purple loosestrife is open in the pond, and the heliopsis, achillea and feverfew all started while we were gone. Daisies have been replaced by daisy fleabane. First fireflies seen; there were none before we left, and none in Maine or along the way. A few Japanese beetles in the roses.
Notes for the Yellow Springs News After Returning from Maine
The second week of June, Jeanie and I drove up to Maine, traveling back in time to Yellow Springs May, into lupines everywhere, to poppies, iris, blue flags, peonies and lilacs, to flowering blackberries, and roadsides full of tall buttercups and daisies. Above us, the locust trees were still in bloom, and the catalpas just budding. In the yards and gardens around Bar Harbor, there still were fragrant privets blossoming, and mock orange, bridal wreath spirea, snowball viburnum, rhododendrons and even azaleas.
I always find it magical to jump seasons, to go back or forward from one month to the next. Without the seasonal patterns and a notebook, I would have a hard time knowing when and where I am. My sense of continuity is completely dependent on movement and the picture of how one motion fits with other motions. The markers of my life are fragile. If I didn’t anchor events to other events, to colors and odors, buildings, plants, and to artificial paper frames, I would be literally lost in space.
And so I calculate the return to Late Spring by traveling to Maine, evaluating the distance in Yellow Springs degrees, with a Yellow Springs gauge. When I adjust the needle, shifting the measuring device from June to May and back again, I not only break the rules of stasis but apply them too. The familiar becomes a guide to the unfamiliar. I leave home and universalize home in the same step, both dissolving it and applying it to anywhere I choose.
2000: From this noon in time, the hands of the biological clock move down toward winter. And I rationalize about the loss. I create compensation for decay. I philosophize about transcendence and divinity, indestructible souls, heaven beyond the sky, salvation in kindness and love, immortality through children or influence. I try to believe in the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting. I try to understand how matter and energy are one, how nothing is ever truly destroyed, how spirit is forever in motion, transformed from action to atom to action.
But I wonder, really, if life is not only measured in quantity and presence, measured like the longest days. The absence of leaves and flowers and grass and warmth in winter is beautiful only in the context of its covenant with rebirth. An appreciation of snow and empty branches rises primarily from an aesthetic that values cold and dissolution only if their opposites are certain. In that context, I tolerate the receding tide, find meaning in the yellowing foliage, in the autumn flowers, in the departure of the birds. I find consolation in natural history like I find consolation in my own history, in recollection of my finest, longest days.
Here is the truth, it seems to me: Summer is measured in quantity, in the experience of bounty. Memory and longing are always second best. Accumulation does not always add up to ecstasy, but it reminds me of what is true. It affirms and proves what I know in this season, that less is not more, and that my imagined God and Paradise are the defiant and fantastic signs of an enduring June’s immediate and peerless abundance.
2002: Queen Anne’s lace and goosefoot just starting to bloom as water willow fades after a week-long flowering period. New leaves are growing on the white rhododendron. Frances Williams hosta and the great blue hosta are in full bloom.
2003: Green ash tree in front of the house trimmed back: flower clusters turning to seedpods.
2004: Home from southern Wisconsin: The red monarda and two transplanted hollyhocks opened up all the way while we were gone. The yellow primrose and the kousa dogwoods ended their seasons. Lilies are gathering momentum. Lizard’s tail still full – but its flowers are moving well up its stalk. Water willow is still blossoming. Japanese beetles have eaten the tea roses.
2006: At Santee in South Carolina, corn tall, tasseling, ears completely formed. Wheat fields cut over. Soybeans and peanuts a few inches high. One field of sunflowers in full bloom. Mimosa trees, first seen flowering in southern Kentucky (along with orange trumpet creepers), were common throughout the region. By the roadside, white swamp mallow full bloom, and a yellow five-petaled water plant. Catfish bit off and on night and day at selected sites, even though few fish were reported taken by others in the area.
2007: No Japanese beetles seen this morning. Birds quiet all day, very little activity at the feeders.
2008: Inventory in Yellow Springs on return from Santee-Cooper: Bright yellow primrose still full, some tall daylilies opening. Asiatic lilies: orange, violet, deep orange, white, yellow. Candy lilies completely gone. Mallow and veronica full. First green-eyed Susan. Full catmint, spiderwort, hobble bush, oakleaf hydrangea, white achillea, red phlox, great blue hosta, Stella d’oros, coral bells, lamb’s ear, pink spirea, astilbe, Japanese honeysuckles, very late sweet Williams, monarda blushing, fragments of sweet rockets, heading Queen Anne’s lace. Full hollyhocks all over town. Full violet clematis. Rhubarb has recovered. More endless summer hydrangea flowers. Apples in the alley a third of full size, one golf-ball size hairy Osage fruit, first blue campanula, last Japanese iris, last water willow. Lizard’s tail is about a fourth to a third open.
2009: Inventory here on return from Santee Cooper: Wheat is golden. Lizard’s tail a third in bloom. Monarda flushed, celandine holding, strong spiderwort in the shade, late lamb’s ear, full daisy fleabane, pink spirea, oakleaf hydrangea, coral bells, astilbe, ramps, great blue hosta, early heliopsis, full gooseneck, hobblebush, Anna Belle, larkspur, veronica, pink phlox, Stella d’oros clustered bellflower, pink tea rose, campanula, achillea, late catmint, Japanese honeysuckle, sweet Williams, primrose, early yucca in the yard, and purple coneflowers, Russian sage, mallow, and Queen Anne’s lace. Japanese iris gone. No bird calls as I walked Bella this evening at 9:00, but Janie reported fecal sacks in her birdbath.
2010: Jeanie saw three Japanese beetles in the ferns this afternoon, the first of the year. I noticed white thrips, “fuzz bugs,” on the flower stalk of a hosta.
2011: Ramps up and fully budded.
2012: Mid-season hostas starting to open now, Mateo’s rose of Sharon coming in, moth mullein seen full bloom on the way to Dayton, the lily in the dooryard garden has five blossoms, full bloom – and throughout the rest of the yard, thirty-five different lily varieties flowering. Ramps starting to bloom. Just a handful of Stella d’oro lilies and yellow primroses flowering, the last yellow bloom of early June. At the west end of the yard, the oak leaf hydrangea petals are turning soft pale green. Birds much quieter through the day. This afternoon, a monarch in the zinnias and a white “fuzz bug” in the raspberry brambles (and another small picking of berries today). This evening, some cardinal songs as I walked Bella.
2013: Inventory on return from three weeks in Italy: Stella d’oro, pink spirea, penstemon, astilbe, oakleaf hydrangeas (flowers eaten by deer), Anna Belle hydrangea, hobble bush hydrangea, pink hydrangea, heliopsis, spiderwort, lamium, mallow, salvia, roses, celandine, Japanese honeysuckle, great blue hosta, catmint, sweet peas, seven lily plants, and the last of Jeanie’s campanulas, grown two feet tall – all in bloom. A few sweet rockets, violet clematis and weigela blossoms and sweet Williams left. Most of the yellow primroses eaten off by deer. Peaches about an inch and a half long. Seedpods found hanging from the wisteria.
Three zinnias have bloomed and a couple of the cosmos in the east garden. The gladiolas that I planted before I left at the end of May are from one to two feet tall. Some of the bee balm is reddening. One of the fish – Daisy, the smallest one – is sick, hides by the filter. A small dark green frog has moved in to the pond. A great spangled fritillary came by in the afternoon, only the third large butterfly I have seen all year.
2014: White sweet clover along the freeway to Cincinnati. Throughout the countryside, dead ash trees. The autumns will be transformed, will be missing half their color. Arrowhead foliage well developed at Ellis. In the yard, the first monarda flower head is blushing. Stella d’oro lilies along the east fence complement the yellow primroses in the north garden, the first time they have been strong enough to provide real banks of color. Gold finches feed all day at the thistle seed. Five different kinds of dragonflies seen at home and at Ellis. One zebra swallowtail and a glimpse of a monarch or viceroy at the monastery of St Clare.
2015: Twelve different lily varieties open today, although the large number blossoms on Stella d’oros and ditch lilies balances the small amount of standard day lily bloomers. I noticed that the catmint had been spent at the same time as the primrose. Don’s cherry tree is still full of cherries, all dark and ready to pick.
2016: Twenty-eight different lily plants in flower this morning, mostly Stella d’oros (in decline) and ditch lilies, but the standard day lilies are now up to four. In the pond, lizard’s tail in early full flower, and the first trumpet creeper blossomed by the back porch.
2017: Sixty ditch lily blossoms, five Asiatics, five Stella d’oros, five standard day lilies. Only two flowers left on the primroses, their worst season in years, the plants getting old. Jill told about being briefly in a straight-line wind full of cottonwood cotton today.
2018: All day rain. Fifty-nine ditch lily blossoms, three Asiatic plants with several blossoms, five Stella d’oros, two standard day lilies. Primroses holding. An avens plant seen flowering at Jill’s, and from Denver she sent me a photograph of a bull thistle plant in full bloom.
2019: Hopewell, Virginia to Yellow Springs: The hills and valleys were rich, deep green, the June rains having produced dense, lush foliage. In Virginia, the large magnolias still kept some of their flowers. Mimosa trees were covered with their pink blossoms. At a rest stop, I found honeysuckles with red berries, budding burdock, fully developed cattails. At home: seven Stella d’oro lilies, one day lily, two Turk’s cap lilies, twelve ditch lilies, heliopsis early full, the first bee balm turning, water iris gone, full bloom of the big blue hostas and some bi-colors, first flowers on the milkweed.
2020: The monarda (bee-balm) is starting to blush now at home, but the bright red, larger-flowered variety is open in some yards. Twenty-four ditch lilies are in bloom today, but only one Stella d’oro. No pond iris blossoming today; the first one opened on June 7 this year, a clean two-week season. At the pond, the elderberry bush is finally in full flower, the parsnips are full and the hemlock is going to seed. In the street, small, hairy Osage fruits the size of a large sweet cherry fallen in the wind. I picked a black walnut the size of a big acorn from Jill’s tree and an apple just a little bigger than the Osage from Peggy’s tree. On Talus Drive, Canadian thistles found still in bloom.
We need time’s arrow to assure us that sequences of events tell meaningful stories and promise hope for improvement…. If events recur in predictable ways (as days must follow nights, and new birth compensate old deaths), then life includes pattern amidst the flux.
Stephen Jay Gould