Things Of The Earth And Sky

Winnipeg must be the flyway for all sorts of romantic international flights because you see the contrails of these high flying jets lingering in the morning and evening air, streaking the sky with white lines that slowly dissipate into wisps that form interesting cloud patterns against the blue.

Sitting in my garden each evening, I look at the sky and marvel at the beauty of this celestial travel. Where are these people going? What business or adventures are they pursuing? Do they wonder at our antlike existence below them in the morning or evening sun?

My garden doesn’t care. It is focused on things of the earth; of plants and insects and animals getting their business done now because winter is only a whisper away and they need to reproduce as fast as they can.

The plants bloom fiercely and stunningly; theirs is such a short season in the northern clime, and the sun, so bright and hot, urges them on at a frantic pace. It stays out well into the night or what would be night in more southern parts of the world. When it becomes dark at 6 p.m. in Miami or Nassau or Cartagena, we are still basking in the sunlight and will do so for many more hours; near the summer solstice, it can stay light until eleven and dawn comes at 3 a.m. Do the jetliner people know of these wonders they are missing?

I once arrived in Whitehorse at 1 a.m. on June 21. The sky was a fierce blue with a ball of fire still lighting the night as bright as day. There was a strange sense of urgency in the air; the sun was forcing its energy upon us and people were responding by staying up and carrying on their abnormal routines in the middle of the night. The locals said that the newbies covered their windows with tinfoil so they could sleep.

For now, well into July, the urgency of June has passed and we are savouring each day of summer. The garden has lost its freshness – it’s amazing how quickly it can begin to look tawdry if someone isn’t deadheading and cutting back overgrowth every day. The lamb’s ears, so sprightly a week ago, have flowered and are looking tired. The brilliant yellow lilies are beginning to die away and the phlox is just beginning to bud. The celandine poppy, blooming so happily since May, has finally resigned, its yellow blossoms turned to vigorous seeds and its oak-like leaves already beginning, poppy-like, to fade and die back until next year.

But all is not over. The ivy that I “pinched” from a wall in Ottawa years ago is only halfway up the southern wall of the house. It is not hardy here, of course, and takes much longer to get started than the Englemann’s Ivy and the Virginia creeper that occupies the other half of the wall. The hostas are just coming into bloom and the fantastic filipendula still has only promising buds. Its frothy pink flowers are patiently waiting their turn to shine over the ligularia which will show off later. The annuals are spilling out of their pots, still looking fresh and young, and the feather reed grass has yet to send up its pretty plumes.

Meanwhile, the sky has cleared now; no clouds and no contrails. The evening is still luminous at 9 p.m. as the sun makes its way toward the horizon. A hush is falling over the land, muffling even the far off sounds of cars on the perimeter highway. It will soon be time for sleep.

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