All the greens of summer: a feast for the senses.

Greenness calms our screen-weary cones and rods, even as they photosynthesize the multitudinous shades. Grass, weeds, bushes, shrubs, herbs, trees (sugar maple, silver maple, oak, cherry, cedar, Virginia pine, Kentucky cigar, walnut, filbert, apple, pear, peach), duckweed ... you name it.

The shades are lime, forest, olive, mint, sage, hunter, pine, sea, teal. Not enough names for all the variances of shade, light and tone.

In the afternoon, crossing the field, the tall grass tickles me shins, the cherry tree caresses my arms, the pond weeds whisper my arrival.

When loneliness comes stalking, go into the fields, consider

the orderliness of the world. Notice

something you have never noticed before,

like the tambourine sound of the snow-cricket

whose pale green body is no longer than your thumb.

(from The Leaf and the Cloud by Mary Oliver)

My ears’ hammers, anvils and stirrups tremble with pleasure at the gentle rustling of the nighttime woods, like ladies’ long taffeta skirts or the applause of the elderly on a Sunday afternoon. Before a storm, clicking branches and clapping leaves form a cacophony of alarmed voices, joining with the jays, crows, swallows, squirrels and rumbling thunder, an orchestra.

Stepping into the forest is like shutting a door on the world. All outside sounds are muffled. My deep breathing is rewarded with an olfactory contentment. Pools of sylvanshine illuminate the undergrowth and become jewels. Jewels, I tell you.

A tri-petaled chartreuse flower, so tiny. Tree ferns, so delicate. Moss, so soft. Pitcher plants, so intelligent.

You don’t experience this stuff on a TV, cellphone or computer screen.

Once, in a Maine State Forest, my family and I were walking when my father suddenly laid down on his back. The rest of us had no idea what he was doing.

“Come on, lay down,” he said. “Look up.”

I lay next to him and looked, straight up the tall trunks to the leafy canopy overhead. Up the depth, the movement, the sparkles of green light.

Consider the machinations of a single leaf.

The sunlight hits the leaf’s broad surface, which absorbs the energy by its green pigment, chlorophyll.

In the meantime, the stoma (tiny pores) on the leaf’s underside absorb a raw material from the air, carbon dioxide.

The tree’s roots absorb water, which travels upward through tiny pipes called xylem, to ... guess where? The leaf! So the water goes into the leaf.

The sun’s energy joins the CO2 and water to produce a form of sugar called glucose. Glucose is the tree’s food. It travels out to the rest of the tree through tiny pipes called phloem.

As in any production plant, there is a waste product. The waste product of photosynthesis is oxygen. Oxygen! What a gift.

When I visited a friend in Boston, she told me the surface of her section of the city is 6% treed.

Trees, our stalwart faithful silent sentinels, can save us.

Thou shalt not “trim” off all of their branches, leaving them with no leaves, no way to absorb sunlight, no way to produce glucose, no way to feed themselves. They die.

“The tree, which moves some to tears of joy, is in the eyes of others only a green thing that stands in the way,” writes William Blake.

The greens of summer feed me, too. Lettuce, kale, peas, cucumbers, zucchini, asparagus, green beans, peppers. Picked washed sliced diced sautéed grilled baked boiled broiled or raw chewed swallowed.

From the sun to the plant to me:

Nourishment in the first degree.

The greens of summer. Just outside the door.

Luanne Austin lives in Mount Sidney.

Contact her at, or care of the DN-R.

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