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Honeysuckle Days

I’ve often wondered if there really is anything so rare as a day in June — especially when honeysuckle is in bloom. Just as April showers bring May flowers, honeysuckle prepares the way for summer.

As summer flowers go, honeysuckle is about as relaxed as a plant can be. It sprawls over bushes and fencerows and just about anything else that gets in it path.

In the city it’s a nuisance, but in the country it is the backdrop for countless summer days.

Honeysuckle days — from early June into July and even August — are as golden as honey and every bit as sweet.

Honeybees, in fact, love the delicate blossoms, as do an assortment of other winged creatures. When honeysuckle vines open for business, fencerows buzz.

To learn the real buzz about honeysuckle days, though, you’ll have to visit the grassy stretch of land that fronts our property along a winding country road.

For a number of years now we’ve used the field for hay, but when we bought our farm some 35 years ago it was a jumble of grasses and wildflowers — a real meadow.

We named our place for that field — Stillmeadow Farm, but it didn’t take us long to discover that our meadow is seldom still.

On summer days, deer come by twos and threes — sometimes a whole herd stops to visit. Gangly-legged youngsters frolic in the shade while their mothers go about the serious business of cropping grass and snagging the occasional honeysuckle streamer.

Silhouetted against a backdrop of honeysuckle vines by the creek, our “dear” friends make a not-so-still life, a sketch of summer one might title “Beauty and the Beasts.”

Beauty is found in the smaller creatures as well, but the eye of the beholder must be quick to spot it.

A slight swaying in the tall grass beside the road marks the passage of a procession of quail. Head bobbing, Mother Quail leads the way. All is in order until one of the deer youngsters leaps across the creek and snaps a twig along the way.

What happens next can only be described as a quail explosion.

I’m always amazed at how nature plays the odds. A quail predator might locate one or two little birds, but certainly not all of them.

On this day, there is no impending danger, and in the blink of a hawk’s eye Mama Bird’s neck pops up out of the grass. The bird babies fall in line behind her and off they go, attending to some important quail errand. A swish of waving grass is all that remains of their visit.

As the sun climbs higher, a family of rabbits ventures out of a nearby brush pile. With twitching ears and noses, they seem to be measuring the distance to the nearest honeysuckle patch.

Overhead, squirrels scamper about as squirrels always do, but it seems to me that their frantic pace is slower. Perhaps they want to stop and smell the honeysuckle along with the rest of us.

If I come to the meadow at dusk I sometimes see a roly-poly skunk. With broad stripes swaying from side to side, he hurries off in the opposite direction, a fortunate decision for both of us.

I wonder — are we as offensive to skunks as they are to us?

Further up the hill a still-sleepy groundhog waddles toward the garden. I smile to myself because I know that traversing our garden fence will require more effort than this lazy fellow is willing put forth.

Still, I believe I see a gleam in his beady little eyes. Hope — even in t he groundhog heart — springs eternal on such honeysuckle-scented evenings.

As the shadows deepen and darkness creeps across the land a clear crescent moon peeps over the treetops. The stage is set, and summer is waiting in the wings.

Over time, I’ve learned that the days at summer’s beginning are a time to be treasured.

The creatures in the meadow understand — and when honeysuckle days arrive, so do I.