Midsummer ~ In Massachusetts

The Pond on Moosehorn Road ~ Stephen Gingold (Click image to enlarge)


bark-heavy sentry
watches from shadowed sedges
frail lily floats



The metallic drone of cicadas; desiccated and drooping crops; fish sinking toward cooler water even as rising temperatures slow life’s pace for body and mind: such is the arrival of midsummer on the Texas coast.

It’s a season suited for lighter fare, and so I’m offering a small series of images matched with poetry: tokens of a season I love.

All photos and haiku are mine, with the exception of this photo, taken by one of my favorite nature photographers. Steve Gingold specializes in the landscape of Western New England. His natural world differs significantly from my own, but it’s equally beautiful. You can find more at his Nature Photography blog.

Comments are welcome, always

58 thoughts on “Midsummer ~ In Massachusetts

  1. I really like this wonderful poetry you wrote. I am working on clearing things out at my Dad’s, and today I walked down to the pond where I spent so much of my summer. You really captured what it feels like. Thank you! I love Steve’s work, too :)

    1. Thanks, Melissa. I’m especially happy I captured some of the feeling of your pond for you — with Steve’s inspiration. Looking at the photo and poem in another way, it occurs to me that, for both of us, our dads were those watching sentries. Lucky the lilies so protected!

  2. I share your romance with the south. My experience is rooted in MS, and only during an occasional summer vacation. it’s quite different from the Pacific NW. Love your site! I’m currently working on a new book of poetry, and recently debuted “Grits for the Ribs” as a first time author. I have a love-hate “thing going on” for writing. I’m always amazed at the end result. I find it to be a continual learning experience. Don’t you? Looking forward to reading more . . .

    1. Thanks for stopping by, Janet, and thanks for your comment. I’d say Mississippi and the Pacific Northwest probably are as distant, one from another, as Texas and Massachusetts. I’d also say, “Vive la différence!”

      I wouldn’t say I have a romance with the south, though I certainly have a relationship with Texas (and enjoy an occasional fling wtih Louisiana). Still, my love of this part of our country did begin with Mississippi, during trips to places like Oxford and Biloxi with my parents. There are good memories there.

      Enjoy your writing, and the learning it brings.

    1. The haiku began forming as soon as I saw Steve’s photo on his site. It took a day or so to post it as a comment, and then a bit more time to do the tweaking that made it “just right.”

      I thought it was so nice that I wanted to share it here. Both stand well enough on their own, but they’re especially nice in combination. I’m glad you enjoyed it.

    1. I’d say you’re clearly more the lily than the tree, so — float on in peace! The lily recalls the post where you shared the flowers in your hair, and it also recalls for me the flowers atop your blog page.

      I’m sorry to hear you’ve been so ill. I hope each day is better, now.

  3. Their midsummer would be a welcome break from the midsummer we’re having up here in the flatlands. If the forecast holds true, next Wednesday will be the first time in a while the predicted high will be below 95F. At around 69% our relative hum is on the sticky side, but then we’ve had a lot of rain this year. Just now it occurred to me that haiku is like “extreme etheree”

    1. There must be a front coming, because the day after you plunge below 95F, we have a 30% chance of rain. We’ve been having seabreeze showers the past three days, but they don’t do much, apart from creating the world’s largest and most uncomfortable steam bath.

      Even the fishermen are giving it up by noon, if not earlier. Once the breeze rises in the afternoon, it’s at least tolerable in the shade, but not by much.

      I’ve been wondering where my etherees have gone. Maybe they’re on vacation, too. But haiku are a worthy substitute, and seem to be coming more easily just now. I love your description of them!

    1. Thanks, Jean! I’m gad you enjoyed it. And I think you’d enjoy taking some time to browse Steve’s photos. He lives in a beautiful part of the country, and captures it well.

  4. You may be aware of the mnemonic that botany teachers recite to new students to remember the difference between grasses and sedges: Sedges have three edges.

    Poetry and sedge remind me of Keats’s “La Belle Dame Sans Merci,” which begins:

    Oh what can ail thee, knight-at-arms,
    Alone and palely loitering?
    The sedge has withered from the lake,
    And no birds sing.

    Where you are, over by the coast, I expect lots of birds are singing.

    1. I’ve not heard the mnemonic, but it’s a good one. Thanks to this post, I did learn about the three edges. Once I decided to use “sedges,” I had to do a little exploring to be sure that I was using an appropriate word. Who knew that Massachusetts had so many sedges?

      Alas — no singing birds here, just now. There are a few chirping sparrows in the morning, and occasional raucous exchanges between parent birds and the babies they’re trying to get to feed themselves, but it’s so hot that most are huddled in the shade or at the water’s edge, panting.

      Now that I think of it, most humans are behaving the same way.

    1. It’s a lovely scene, isn’t it, Sammy? Just imagine how many spots ilke this are waiting for someone to discover them. We should do our part to help out, don’t you think?

  5. These places we remember and enjoy remind me of the first lyrics of a Beatles song.

    There are places I remember all my life
    Though some have changed
    Some forever, not for better
    Some have gone and some remain

    All these places have their moments
    Of lovers and friends I still can recall
    Some are dead and some are living
    In my life I loved them all

    1. It’s true, isn’t it? Some places never leave us, whether we came to know them over a period of years, or experienced them only for a day. Sometimes, an hour’s enough to impress them in memory — on our hearts, as much as on our minds.

      Just for fun, I took a few minutes to list ten places I’d chose never to forget. It was a very interesting exercise — and I’m glad I don’t have to make that choice, because there are many more places than ten I want to remember!

  6. It was 89 last night at 10 pm. Hot water is easy – out of hot or cold tap. Yep, it’s summer.
    Enjoyed the fish sinking searching for cool and the lighter blog fare rising to surface with cool poetry and photos.
    Breezy and perfect

    1. You know the dialogue as well as I do, Phil. It’s as old as those East Texas hills, and just as comforting:

      “Hot, ain’t it?”
      “Gonna get hotter, too.”
      “I reckon.”

      It’s the liturgy of high summer — the season of iced watermelon in galvanized tubs, gallons of sweet tea, and dinner and singing on the grounds. Remember Lyle Lovett’s great tale? “To the Lord, let praises be — it’s time for dinner. Now, let’s go eat!”

  7. This is a poetic preparation for me, a midsummer delight, foreshadowing beauty to come. I’ll be heading out to Boston, Mass. for a New England road trip this Autumn, a fall foliage expedition. I look forward to some more nature poetry then.

    1. I heard from Jeanie that you have that autumn trip planned. What a treat for you! It’s a trip I’ve not made in any season — my experience of the East is limited to NYC, DC, and parts of New Jersey — but if I were to go, autumn would be my choice.

      Here’s a link to the posts tagged fall foliage on Steve’s blog. He works pretty close to home, so I suspect most of the photos are from the Amherst area.

      Another bit of reading you might enjoy is the section on “Autumn” from Thoreau’s Journal. It’s online here. It will be fun to hear your impresions of a fall that surely is going to be different than that you experience in Alberta.

  8. Much to think about in this post Linda. Loved the haiku and thanks for the introduction to Steve’s site. Jim’s reminder of the old Beatles song fits perfectly and refreshes many memories, not necessarily of the Beatles! Your comment of our Dad’s being the “watching sentries’ is apt. The photo of the lily pond reminded me of the times I floated on a Connecticut lily pond with my Dad gigging for frogs.

    1. I never would have imagined you as a frog gigger, Kayti, but you had to have had a good bit of fun, especially since you were sharing the experience with your dad. The only gigging I’ve done was for flounder, but frog gigging’s popular here, and a part of Texas football lore:

      “Blame it all on an Aggie named Pinky Downs. A 1906 Texas A&M graduate, Downs was a member of the school’s board of regents from 1923 to 1933. He was the kind of Aggie who wore a maroon tie every day and who prodded the school into spending an extra $10,000 so that its new swimming pool would be longer than the one at the University of Texas.”

      “When the Aggies had a yell practice before the 1930 TCU game, Downs naturally was there. “What are we going to do the those Horned Frogs?” he shouted. His muse did not fail him. “Gig ‘em, Aggies!” he improvised, appropriating a term from frog hunting. For emphasis, he made a fist with his thumb extended straight up. The Southwest Conference had its first hand sign.”

      From haiku to horned frogs in one easy leap! I’m glad you enjoyed the post — thanks for sharing your own memory of the lily pond.

    1. It’s true, isn’t it? Sometimes we “take a break,” or pause in our work, but when time itself seems to slow and then stop, it’s refreshing in a different way. I hope you’ve found some refreshment in the midst of all this heat!

  9. Definitely a season suited for lighter fare, even up here. I have all these lovely photographs of Maine and thoughts about the trip I want to post, but somehow . . . in time, in time. Meanwhile, you’ve got the ticket, exactly, with the photo and accompanying haiku.

    1. Susan, I think it’s akin to pot roast and port in winter, fruit salad and white wine in summer: poetry suits well in summer, philosophy in winter. Clearly, that’s too broad a brush, but still…

      Besides, this is a good way for me to introduce Steve and post some of my favorite photos: images that could have been better in the hands of a skilled photographer, but which I still like and want to share. Paired with a haiku, they do just fine.

      The nice thing about haiku is that I can work on them while working — no paper and pen needed. It’s a nice way to avoid thinking about the heat.

  10. Thanks so much, Linda. I always appreciate your comments on my posts. That you wanted to share this and add to it with your tight and lovely Haiku is quite encouraging to my sense of vision.
    There are two aspects to intimate landscapes that I find quite appealing. First and foremost is the appreciation of the smaller things in life. When out in the larger view it is sometimes easy to overlook the little wonders that go unnoticed. Second is the opportunity to capture nature even when it is surrounded by much that may be considered “unnatural” in a challenging environment such as a city or, as most often in my case, a rural community.

    1. That appreciation of the smaller things in life is important to me, too, Steve. Some of my most deeply held beliefs can be summed up in very few words, and one of them is, “Everything counts.” We’ve lived for some time now with an insistence that we need to look at the big picture, but sometimes we end up not seeing the trees for the forest.

      And believe me — everyone who’s tried to photograph a gorgeous tree or stand of flowers without including the power lines or sidewalk knows how hard it can be.

      I spent an hour last night looking through my copy of “Van Gogh and Nature” that arrived on Friday. You’re going to have a wonderful time at that exhibit.

      1. We are looking forward to August 3rd. Mary Beth reserved a complimentary pass that our local library receives from the Clark so one of us gets in for free. :-) They allow photography,sans flashes, so I will try to document our visit for you.
        Don’t forget the ever-present cell towers that are all over the hills and mountains. I hate those things in the landscape…but love them when I need reception.

  11. Your haiku beautifully goes with this photo, Linda! What a restful picture it is, too. I love the colors in the lily flower, as well as the different shades of green next to the tree! I remember summers in Texas — watching the late news and hearing that it was still 90 degrees outside!

    1. I was so taken with the photo, Debbie. I think part of its effect was due to my surprise at finding wild water lilies in Massachusetts. Of course, I had no idea how many ponds are up there, either. I knew about Thoreau and his Walden, but apparently I assumed that was the only pond in the state.

      I like the greens, too. And I especially like the lily pad with the purple cast in the lower left. Even some of the reflections have just a tinge of purple. It’s such a nice effect.

      As for those hot, Texas summer nights — the next photo is more in that vein.

    1. Don’t you know I was thinking of this when I read about your lotus? I’d always conflated the water lily and lotus, and assumed they were the same. Now I’m all up to speed, and ready to give both their due!

      Thanks for stopping by — I’m glad you like the pairing.

      1. My apologies for missing a post here and there. Life stretches me too far sometimes, and I miss things I don’t really want to miss. You are the one person I know who can say so much with so few words! And I’m honored that something I’ve written enlightened you a wee little bit! They are both, lotus and lily, so refreshingly beautiful on the water.

        1. BW, you know no apologies are needed. Life stretches me from time to time, and heaven knows I don’t have the responsibilities you do. If you’ve got an extra minute here or there, you need to be patting yourself on the back for the great things happening for your kids, and the slow but steady progress in your writing. I know you’ll come by when you can. If you go too long without showing your pretty face, either here or on your blog, I’ll just come pound on your door and see what’s up!

  12. Thanks for this. I’m just back now from a camping trip with my family, where we paddled past many a lily pad. Like many things “frail,” they also strike me as incredibly resilient and a group of them is certainly best avoided by a canoe!

    1. When it comes to resiliency, your lilies sound much like our water hyacinth. They look delicate, but they can get ripped out of their homes, floated down a creek or bayou, pass through the bay, and make it all the way down to the Gulf – blooming all the way.

      Aren’t they pretty? Just hope they don’t come to visit your boat! I suspect paddling through them would be — difficult!

    1. Thanks, snowbird. They’re fun to play with. I’ve been thinking that the difference between an essay about nature and a haiku is (very) roughly analogous to the difference between landscape and macro photography. It’s good we have more than one way to look at the world!

  13. Steve’s image is perfect to pair with your words of summer. Delicate colors of the floating lily are a little bit of magic against the earthly greens and damp hues of tree and foliage. I love the haiku as it so neatly presents the serene sense of the scene and the image of summer.

    1. The lily truly is wonderful — it’s set like a pearl in that scene. I still can’t get over the fact that they live so far north. I assume that you see water lilies all the time, although the USDA maps show the American lotus much less common there.

      Given the state of the world, finding a little serenity now and then is a good thing. I’m sure that’s part of the appeal of the photo for me.

  14. A frail lily floats. That really is lovely — as is the photo that inspired it. We have water lilies in the Ditch. Not nearly so pretty, though maybe they are — just too far away to get the whole look. Lovely, Linda.

    1. See? There’s another bit of evidence that my understanding of water lily habits has been seriously lacking. I was surprised to see them in Massachusetts — but now I find they’re in Michigan, too. They obviously are more hardy than those pretty, frail petals suggest!

      Maybe someday you’ll be able to snap a photo of one of yours. I’d love to see it. I wonder if you could get Harry to pose with one?

    1. The moody shadows and the spot of color, so beautifully combined, remind me of what it must be like for you and Judy to come across birds in the swamps and the forests of your part of the world. I hope you’ve been getting out and about a bit. I’d hate to think of you all cooped up in an office for weeks at a time!

      1. It really is! The colors in the swamps are my favorite in the world — such shadows and haze, punctuated by brilliant spots of color.

        I’ve been living b/w Atlanta and Florida for awhile now, so my time in the treasured swamps is limited — but I have not given up! :)

    1. What a lovely thought — not only that you get a holiday, but that you’d take it here! There’s so much beauty in the world — isn’t it wonderful that we can share it, from both sides of The Pond?

      Many thanks for stopping by, and for your comment. You’re always welcome!


    1. I really do enjoy combining images and words, Otto. With this whole series of posts, the image came first, and then the words which were evoked.

      On the other hand, once the words are settled, it seems as though they contribute a little “something extra” to the image — a kind of reciprocal relationship.

      In any event, it’s great fun, and it pleases me that you enjoyed it.

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