"And what is so rare as a day in June?"
I would never have heard that line, never have read that poem, if it weren't Mrs. Hier and Mrs. Botkin, two widowed sisters living in two separate houses on one plot of land warmly called Greenwood Acres.
Every summer, my sisters and me - sometimes two of us, sometimes one of us - would work at Greenwood Acres: pulling weeds, scraping and painting fences, mowing, cleaning out basements, feeding chickens and donkeys and ponies, picking up sticks and whatever else it is you do as a young person on a farm in Iowa in the summer.
But almost every morning - before we started trimming back vines or painting yards of fences - Mrs. Hier and Mrs. Botkin would sit with us on one of their porches, with the sun coming up in the east, squirreling its way through trees and leaves and ferns to create long lines on the deck, and read us poetry.
We read "The Spider and the Fly" by Maud Howitt and "Grass" by Carl Sandburg and "Mending Wall" by Robert Frost and "L'Envoi" by Rudyard Kipling, the latter which also hung on the wall in a frame in Mrs. Botkin's living room.
And every June - in rain and in sun - Mrs. Hier would read "The Vision of Sir Launfal" by James Russel Lowell. And every June, whether it was soggy or sunny, she would remember her mother's love of this poem, tearing up as she read, "And what is so rare as day in June?"
So while I can't offer you lemonade in a tall glass or a cup of tea in a fragile, flowered tea cup, like the sisters offered us; while I can't provide the sounds of a dog chasing a frantic chicken through the yard like we heard; while I can't send the smell of freshly cut crass and drying paint that we smelled each summer to you through the Internet; and while I can't recreate the sound the train would daily make when it scraped past their houses, its tracks only feet away, I can share with you the poem that can bring joy to your heart, "so full that a drop overfills it."
And what is so rare as a day in June?
Then, if ever, come perfect days;
Then Heaven tries the earth if it be in tune,
And over it softly her warm ear lays:
Whether we look, or whether we listen,
We hear life murmur, or see it glisten;
Every clod feels a stir of might,
An instinct within it that reaches and towers,
And, grasping blindly above it for light,
Climbs to a soul in grass and flowers;
The flush of life may well be seen
Thrilling back over hills and valleys;
The cowslip startles in meadows green,
The buttercup catches the sun in its chalice,
And there 's never a leaf or a blade too mean
To be some happy creature's palace;
The little bird sits at his door in the sun,
Atilt like a blossom among the leaves,
And lets his illumined being o'errun
With the deluge of summer it receives;
His mate feels the eggs beneath her wings,
And the heart in her dumb breast flutters and sings;
He sings to the wide world, and she to her nest, –
In the nice ear of Nature which song is the best?
Now is the high-tide of the year,
And whatever of life hath ebbed away
Comes flooding back, with a ripply cheer,
Into every bare inlet and creek and bay;
Now the heart is so full that a drop overfills it,
We are happy now because God so wills it;
No matter how barren the past may have been,
'T is enough for us now that the leaves are green;
We sit in the warm shade and feel right well
How the sap creeps up and the blossoms swell;
We may shut our eyes, but we cannot help knowing
That skies are clear and grass is growing;
The breeze comes whispering in our ear,
That dandelions are blossoming near,
That maize has sprouted, that streams are flowing,
That the river is bluer than the sky,
That the robin is plastering his house hard by;
And if the breeze kept the good news back,
For other couriers we should not lack;
We could guess it all by yon heifer's lowing, –
And hark! how clear bold chanticleer,
Warmed with the new wine of the year,
Tells all in his lusty crowing!
Joy comes, grief goes, we know not how;
Every thing is happy now,