Portrait of an Idyllic June Day in the Country (A Word Painting):
He walked along a narrow path in the woods near the edge of the ten feet tall dirt bank. Below and to his right, in the grassy creek bottom, the happy stream chuckled and tinkled its way to the beaver pond, a half-mile downstream.
The trees of early summer were fully leafed; the noontide sun reached the forest floor as dappled spots of light disrupting the shadows of the wooded glen.
In spite of the intermittent shadows and being only early June, it was hot — unseasonably so! Though he could see the rustle of the cottonwood leaves 60 feet above his head, trees and thick brush in the creek bottom prevented any air movement through the undergrowth.
The narrow path he trod was made by shorter creatures — rabbits, skunks, possums; coons — and failed to restrict the grasping claws of waist-high blackberry and gooseberry bushes. The clutching tendrils tore at the jeans about his hips and at his shirtsleeves. Thorns broke away with seemingly malicious intent to lodge in his clothing, then worked into the flesh of his arms and thighs.
Clouds of mosquitos, gnats and biting flies swarmed about his head, adding to his misery.
He paused, swiped an arm futilely across his glistening forehead and succeeded in transferring the burning, briny liquid into his eyes. He cast a sidelong, malevolent glare through the trees at the gloating sun.
The sun stared back dispassionately, indifferent to his sufferings.
At the mouth of the east branch, just north of the beaver swamp — no body of water so clogged with moss and vegetation, and nurturing so many vile insects deserved to be called a pond …
he turned left, descended into the creek bottom and jumped the yard-wide brooklet, sinking as he knew he would ankle-deep into the muck on the far side. Grabbing at roots and weeds clinging tenaciously to the dirt bank, he clawed and pulled his up the bank, his scrambling effort sending a tiny avalanche of dirt to the bottom.
Wiping his hands across the thighs of his jeans served not to remove the dirt but, rather, turned it to mud. His mood grew increasingly dark and ugly.
He walked through the woods to the edge of the bean field, turned south to the fence row and started up the hill to the east.
He had walked a hundred feet or so when he felt the cooling southwest breeze caress his back. From there, the day took on a more pleasant aspect. By the time he reached the lone hackberry at the southwest corner — the highest point on the 70 — he was cool, dry and growing more appreciative of this fine June day.
He lay back, using the bend in a fallen branch — the victim of an earlier lightning strike, standing alone and vulnerable as it was on this high crest — as a pillow.
He watched two hawks circling above below fluffy white clouds; silhouetted against the brilliant blue sky.
The liquid notes of a meadowlark perched on a nearby fence post blended with the busy buzzing of honey bees, hard at work in a patch of white clover near his resting place. His eyes grew heavy; he slipped into contented sleep.
As he opened his eyes, sunlight warmed his face. He sat up, stretched luxuriously and glanced west toward the timber. Ol’ Sol was just beginning to descend below the treetops.
Even as he watched, a cautious head emerged from the woods.
One, two, four, finally a dozen deer stepped carefully from the glen, moving into the beans for an early-evening repast.
He watched until his eyes again grew heavy, then reclined once more and drifted into a dreamless sleep.
He sat up straight, senses alert as he stared into the night. A full moon was descending toward the treetops to the west.
It was the delicious, spine-tingling cry that had awakened him. It had come from Herdicks pasture, just south of the fence line; not more than 50 yards from where he sat. The answering wail to the southeast told him that the pack was on the hunt.
Crickets chirped where bees had buzzed. He had no idea of the time; only knew that he had been asleep for hours.
The breeze that had offered refreshing coolness in the afternoon sun had turned chilly. He was ready to head for home and a cozy bed.
When his eyes had adjusted to the darkness well enough to allow him, he moved along the east fence line, descending into the valley at the head of the east branch, up to the summit north of the creek. Now the cheery glow of the yard light glowed low in the northwest corner, a welcoming beacon in the night. He reached the north fence line, then headed west, down into the valley, up, then down again and home at last.
When he reached the porch, he sat for a moment, reflecting on this day. Quickly, he was joined by two cats, who knew not of his pleasant day but only that they had yet to be fed this day and were hungry.
He stood and moved to the door. He paused, hand holding the screen ajar as, so far to the south as to be barely discernable across the hills and valleys that separated them, the cry of the pack again reached his ears.
He smiled, drew a deep breath, breathed a contented sigh …
And thanked God for allowing this brief glimpse into Paradise.