June — the month of brides and grooms, graduations, children happily exiting the school house and of Father’s Day. The joyous song from “Oklahoma” in the title of this essay, very much describes June; it is hard to be unhappy when peonies and roses are blooming, trees leafing out and singing birds are everywhere. June is when we optimistic gardeners hope to have our gardens all planted and growing into the pictures we’ve created in our heads all winter. This idyllic vision seldom materializes quite that way, but one can dream. In June, the fountain is back in the pond that centers downtown Spencer. It is good to see the sparkling sprays of water again.
June was, according to some sources, named for Juno, wife of Jupiter, the ruling god of Greek mythology. Perhaps this is what makes it a traditional month for marriages. Plans for weddings begin with romantic dreams of lace, flowers, candlelight and the perfect ceremony, a celebratory reception, and often end with both bride and groom wishing they had eloped. Weddings do tend to get a bit out of hand; there are so many creative ideas out there for celebrating; but striving for the “wedding of the year” creates much stress. I remember having slightly frayed nerves the summer before our wedding, and compared to today’s extravaganzas, ours was a very simple occasion.
I wonder, if instead of bachelorette and bachelor parties, it might be a good thing to give the potential bride and groom a contemplation weekend; sort of a Pre-Marriage Encounter, where they can simply relax, breathe and think of their lives ahead. Most of us just bumbled into marriage, expecting the road of life to smoothly flow out ahead of us. We give more attention to decorating our first house or moving upward in a career, than to thinking of how we can help our partners become the persons they were meant to be, and making an effort to grow in the same directions. Lack of communication, neglecting the occasional happiness check with each other, lack of time to do things as a couple, personal selfishness and avoidance of difficult subjects all combine to make pot holes in that metaphorical road. A large helping of transparency is important to a good relationship and paves a smooth way into the future. Real intimacy means openness and trust. A like sense of humor helps too! Laughing with someone is a great healer.
We celebrated mothers in May and now, in June, we applaud fathers, fathers-in-law and anyone who played a great dad role in our lives. My father and my father-in-law were years apart in age and of different political persuasions, but both had similar values and expectations of life. My father was of an “older generation.” He was born in 1895 and after fathering four other children, nearly grown, was 46 when I was born. He had been brought up in an era where children were to be seen and definitely not heard from very often. His priorities in child-rearing were good manners, education and being responsible. No reason for discussion! He had some annoying tendencies like expecting a straight A in all subjects (yes—- even math!!) and wanting the lawn to be mowed in neat, straight swaths with no creative swirls or zigzags. And there was no objecting when a fiat had been issued. My father could be very loud when irritated. But he also was willing to play games with me (Chinese Checkers and croquet) and he spent hours building two large doll houses; one for me and one for my niece of nearly the same age.
During my growing up years, I would have liked him to be less authoritarian and more understanding of my adolescence, but even at that time, there was no question in my mind that he cared deeply for his family. He may have had overly high expectations and a stern demeanor, but also a generous heart. He was delighted with his small grandchildren (except when one piddled in his shoe) and welcomed all in-laws as they came along. Until a few years ago, I paid little attention to the fact that my father was descended from Scottish clansmen. Now, as I think about this, it makes sense from what I know of the Scots’ history. Genetics is a curious thing. Even though our two sons barely knew their grandfather, I see some of his traits popping up in them. I find this both startling and humorous. I think my father would be pleased could he know all of his descendents; they are numerous and unique people.
Thinking of our sons reminds me that there is parental trauma ahead for both Kerm and me, as we realize our youngest son will turn fifty in two days. It was startling enough when our oldest one reached this pinnacle, but now the youngest!! That makes us feel just a tad OLD. Which, I suppose, in chronology, we are! We generally try to ignore this fact of life until a birthday makes it blatantly real. With all of the information we have on how to live with better health, age has few common denominators any more. I saw a clip of a 101-year-old lady who still does marathons! Of course, with friends we laugh about difficulties that we blame on aging: forgetfulness, hearing loss, dimming eyesight, difficulty in leaping tall buildings at a single bound —- that sort of thing. We joke about reserving rocking chairs in our favorite “home”. But in reality, our culture no longer assigns us a seat by the fire where we spend our waning years in inactivity and lengthy nostalgia. We are still actively helping in our communities,, enjoying friends and family, going where and when we will, and quite able to hold a lucid discussion about anything that pops into our minds from the world around. So — fifty is nothing to worry about at all, nor even what that “fifty” makes us. Happy Birthday, Matt!!
While June is mostly a glad month of celebrations, it can have its difficult times, just as any other month of the year. Certainly the weather of this particular season has been challenging and unfriendly to those trying to get in hay and plant corn. We have several sayings about changeable weather here in the northeast; how we keep three jackets available and boots for snow, mud and rain, but the all-too-frequent rain here, along with floods in the mid-west and tornadoes in the south will impact the crops and raise the price we must pay for food. That’s a little more serious than keeping coats of different degrees of warmth ready for whatever the weather. Just in case, though I haven’t put away my winter boots.
Neither illness nor death is a respecter of seasons. What has been a joyful month of weddings and graduations can turn frightening or sad very quickly. It is quite possible to suffer depression, illness, anxiety, grief or trauma no matter what the angle of the sun on earth happens to be. Just among our acquaintances there is illness, anxiety and mourning. Not everyone is absolutely bouncing with joy over June. And yet, amid all the troubles and sadness, there is still beauty, fragrance and growing life. Helen Keller*, who certainly speaks from experience, said: “While the world is full of suffering, it is also the overcoming of it.” And T.H. White** said something similar: “Quality — in the classic Greek sense — how to live with grace and intelligence, with bravery and mercy.” Remembering these things helps us with the hard times as does trusting prayer and the support of friends.
And that vision of my 2019 gardens? I’m still working on it but I think most of the joy is in the planning. Even when the garden isn’t quite up to the garden plan, it is worth the effort. I enjoy the smell of the damp earth as I pull weeds, the miraculous opening of lilies that have been tightly budded for days, a forgotten geum bursting into bright crimson bloom and sitting in the garden at twilight, listening to bird song and inhaling that soft June air. Different groups of native Americans, depending on where they lived, had different names for each month’s moon. Those in part of the northeast called the full moon in June the “Full Hot Moon”*** This name choice probably indicated that summer weather was expected from then on. I hope you are enjoying whatever weather you have, even in the midst of difficult times. I hope you have good and true friends, the recall of wonderful times, a spiritual practice that gives you strength, and a gladness for each day of life.
Carol may be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Helen Keller – American author. 1880-1968. She was the first blind/deaf person to achieve a B.S. degree.
**T.H. White – English author. 1906-1964. He is best known for his Arthurian novels such as “The Once and Future King.”
*** by Gladys Tabor – whose bio was in the last essay.