It's a strawberry moon and Sumer Is Icumen In. This favorite Middle-English song-round regales the onset of summer and was learned by children at the beginning of the Renaissance. It passed through a poet named Ezra whose parodic phrase, Winter is icumen in, stings with Goddamn hilarity.
Ezra, the moniker of old lives, old soldiers, and young children—many of whom suffered the dread flu-pandemic of the last century—resides in our deep-rooted cemetery high on our hill where we vest our Moon. We barely notice this barely legible name scratched on a weathered headstone frosted half out of the ground during a century or more of Goddamn winters.
Stowed away, they were—homesteaders in stone cellar holes, wood houses, and huts. Building with timber extracted from enfolding trees ever-reaching to choke out their farmsteads, clothing windows in bearskin, burning foul raccoon oil for a little night light. Later tramping through high snows under a cold sun, splashing buckets into wells dug deep under a hot sun.
I think of these intrepids as I lay awake under a crescent moon, calm, confident of a disease-free, sneeze-free winter. Safe here on our hill for an analgesic coon’s age of a summer, a summer to remember.
Yet commonality ‘tween us breed like fungi as viruses dance in the air around us. Bees search for nectar, invisible Sputniks shake down perfect hosts. Then and now summer surrounds us.
Ignorant, we spot honey mushrooms, a seemingly sweet omen deafening on the optimistic, optical possibilities of our Moon. We aren’t gone with the wind, we head into the wind, heads high. Greying branches and white-washed, lichened bark never shout—or perhaps as ageds we do not hear their howls wailing like coy dogs and coyotes at forest edge.
The dread hides in tiny spores, drifts into nurturing environments where the weakest fall victim and morph into ghostly figures. Like Halloween stick-characters poking from ashen marshlands there's no need for masks as bare-naked they spook.
Stressed during sequential summer droughts, our towering spruces succumb to this quiet invasion, hyper-aging in place. They slump suddenly, onto their deathbeds. I feel ambushed. Surrounded. Surreal.
Yet today in this newly made glade, saplings, fairies, and fungi besiege a delightful decay, the compostable, sustainable, old-new catch tag of the day—our compost pile. The largess of the monster fungus distributes itself with abandon and I overwhelm at small pleasures.
A friend plucks his backyard peaches and we drunken on divine, full flavor. Young, new neighbors with old names, Ezra, Elijah, become friends and it’s during this summer of shiny warts and large toads that there’s a baby robin born of a blue egg, and Mama Merganser’s ducklings follow her out of the big pond, across our lawn, and into the little pond.
We call this smaller, round pool of water, the wedding ring pond. We witness illumination, we expect forests to cleanse, and we bubble at young and old gatherin ‘round again. However small it may be we cherish celebration and song uplifting into the zodiac—as that is our way.
MUDIC TO COOK BY
Grandfather's Reel by the Speckers, a longstanding Vermont family of fiddlers
Drunken Fruit Soup
1/2 c. sugar
2 tbs. water
2 oz. red aperitivo*
2 oz. Green Chartreuse liqueur
1 c. Gewürtztraminer wine
4 allspice berries
1/2 vanilla bean, sliced lengthwise
1 stalk lemongrass, bruised
1/2 inch ginger, peeled and rough chopped
1 cup Vermont clover honey
1/4 tsp. orange flower water
Combine sugar and water in pot and heat until sugar dissolves.
Add aperitivo, Chartreuse, and Gewürtztraminer. Cook off alcohol on medium heat for about 3 minutes.
Zest 1 orange and the lemon. Juice all 4 oranges and lemon and add to pot with allspice berries, vanilla bean, and lemon grass.
Simmer for about 4-5 minutes, skimming foam as you go.
Remove from heat. Strain. Add honey and orange flower water. Refrigerate.
Taste for concentration and add cold water if needed.
Serve chilled over sliced peaches, plums, and cherries.
Top with a scoop of citrus or strawberry sorbet.
*An aromatized wine, i.e. Vermont Orleans Bitter (made from cider!) or Campari