Friday, June 6, 2014

Summer in York County

Roaming the York County countryside means seeing fields shorn of their tall grasses and corn standing knee-high right about now. Raspberries are filling out on their canes, and blueberries are ripening a little more each day. Birds linger longer on tree branches, particularly among the flowering varieties whose blossoms have given way to yet another year's-worth of seeds. It's July, the seventh month, which means that we are over half-way through yet another year. The heat rests heavily on the land, and the sun shines down more intensely than it will at any other time.

I'm not a big fan of hot weather, so when I do venture out, I try to get as early a start as I can. Driving along with all the windows down, I bask in the still-cool morning air that, by noon, will feel more like the heat pouring from an oven. On hot days, even the trees seem weighed down by it, their leaves barely moving in the moisture-laden air moving in from the south and the west, completely resigned to the elements that constitute summer in southern Maine.

Much has been written of late about conservation and the actions of many dedicated individuals geared toward protecting unspoiled land for future generations to enjoy and appreciate. While their efforts are indeed commendable, it occurs to me that conservation can take different forms and that it can be deliberate or simply the result of of land being left undisturbed for many years. The long swaths of open field and meadow that I see in my many travels illustrate what I like to call passive conservation. Such acreage emerges from beneath the snows each spring, sprouts a full component of grass that is eventually cut back to ground level. That is about as much as ever happens to such land, and year after year, it is wisely left in nature's domain. The hay or straw harvested from these lands fills many needs, but such undisturbed lands provide another benefit as well by enhancing the countryside and making a lot of lovely scenery possible. Visual beauty, as well as the survival of relatively untouched places, are indeed valuable components of conservation, passive or otherwise, that sometimes get lost in the shuffle of providing areas for people to enjoy in other ways.

We all owe a debt of gratitude to those landowners who quietly, and without much ado, leave large portions of their land in nature's care. Because of them, we have many places to escape to in this part of the world where life's busy-ness and the wilderness live in close proximity to each other. And although much of this land is private and, in some cases, posted against trespassers, I feel that just having it to look at as I drive by or stop along a road somewhere to enjoy is a gift.

I sometimes park my car and walk along the by-ways that border such properties, camera in hand, always on the lookout for that special something that would be missed if I'd just passed by without a second glance. From such a limited vantage point, I am still able to gaze out upon rolling pastures and deep into dense woods where the leaves split the sunlight into glimmering beams. I can gaze down from a bridge into flowing water or look up at clouds that break up a rich blue sky above a field of golden grasses bending in the breeze, thankful always to those wise landowners who know that, when nature is given full rein, nothing short of the spectacular will do.

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