August in Vermont

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(Host) Today Ruth Page takes us for an August walk along a quiet road in Shelburne, to enjoy clouds and flowers, and summer’s full artist’s palette against a quiet gray background.

(Page) It’s early August, a hot, humid Sunday. So I wait until after 5:00 to take a walk in Shelburne, along Bostwick Road, where farmlands spread on both sides and Nature manages the verges.

I find it too hot for my usual fast stride, but with the sun in hiding I enjoy a stroll. It’s a soft, warm afternoon. A walk between farm fields, in full green array after days of intermittent showers, offers me a rich experience.

Along all the infrequently-mown slopes down to the road flow the yellow, purple and white blooms of mid-summer, heading toward autumn. Broad drifts of smooth, sun-yellow, tiny blossoms of bird’s foot trefoil pour down the slopes, contrasting beautifully with the tall stems of the white-crowned Queen Anne’s Lace. I notice that Anne’s platter-like umbels are much smaller than they were last year; was it the cooler, wetter, July we had, or the chilly spring? The lacy tops are still broad enough to make a royal platform for visiting bees and butterflies, but last year’s were so wide they could accommodate two open-winged butterflies that weren’t on speaking terms.

Thick clover, in every shade from white to a purple that shames the rainbow, grow thickly right along the road. These blooms, too, are smaller than last year’s, but each is a perfect little globe, and their varying lavenders among the golden trefoil make me wish I were a painter.

There are lots of other very small wildflowers, including what look like perfect, miniature daisies, bachelor’s buttons, and tiny white blooms I’ve dubbed starflowers.

Grayish skies make an ideal backdrop to the colorful scene. Not uniform gray, of course – some areas faint as mist, some silver-gray, some charcoal. Clouds spread across the whole sky in a soft curtain. Here and there the sun snips out a little Mediterranean of pure blue. In other places, it pours gentle rays to make shimmering, watery paths down the sky.

The next day, this being Vermont, is utterly different. We waken to glowing blue skies, low humidity, a delicious sense of coolness, and sunshine to highlight every bright flower and shining rock. (The Northeast is big on large, shiny rocks.)

This is just a two-day story, but if this summer has shown us nothing else, it has shown that weather in the north country can be trusted to change Nature’s attire not only from season to season, but often day-to-day. Mark Twain once observed that New England had enough weather to share with other parts of the country, offering rain, sun, snow, ice and thunderstorms. He thought others could get plenty just by clipping ours along the edges.

This is Ruth Page in Shelburne.

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