Under the Influence


Nature’s purpose is never so evident as it is in June. She makes herself known to us in every way, assailing the senses with fragrance, sound, sight, and touch. The gardens and fields are wildly flowering. The rivers gush and rush, without the vaguest presentiment of August and the languid pace to come. The birds have even more to say, whether it’s the lark who announces himself across the widest meadow or the hermit thrush who trills his vanishing call among the lodge pole pines. The sun comes to us slowly, limning the world with silver in the mornings and gilding it with bronze in the evening. As much as we clutch this time of year to us, nature is in no hurry—she follows the same path at the same pace that has guided her for millennia. She is liberal and generous now, as all cultures have come to realize. Whether it’s with a massive stone circle on the Isle of Lewis on the northern edge of Scotland, or a Medicine Wheel atop the Bighorns, humans have made June and its solstice a keystone of spirituality and the wheel of life. Fast on the heels of the fading lilacs, June grows like a fattening peony bud or a burgeoning hay meadow. She has her own agenda, yet we enjoy the results.

Someone, somewhere, is getting ready to mow that lush grass. Once it’s done, we’ll smell it before we see it, and that is part of the intoxication of June. It hits us like perfume, only better, because there isn’t a soul alive that doesn’t like that green and sugary scent. Round the bend in the road and there he—or she—is, in the tractor, doling out the aroma of the first cutting. The Russian olives pitch in, tossing their exotic fragrance onto the wind. It’s undefinable, like frankincense, or something Marco Polo would have brought back from the Orient in a little carved box. The red angus calves, lumps of burnished copper, lay in the green meadows, while a light breeze flings darts of sky above them in the form of mountain bluebirds.

A single rider on a paint horse moseys along a fence line, making us think of all that’s to come as June leans into July. When rodeo time arrives, westerners partake in a fashion both solemn and giddy. The hallowed birth of our nation aside, it’s as though the heady intoxication of June must find an explosion of release about four days into the next month. We invest in new costumes, then we whoop, holler and celebrate America’s rugged gallants. But for now, it is June, and the solstice is upon us. We celebrate the longest day—and enjoy it we must, for after June 21, the tick-tock of the celestial clock will begin its slow reversal. So we pay attention and we hold personal celebrations each time we feel the influence of June. It really is impossible to take it all in, but every hour grants us a measure that we can notice and treasure. As Aldo Leopold put it, “In June, as many as a dozen species may burst their buds in a single day. No one can heed all of these anniversaries; no one can ignore all of them.”