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Summer Walks

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Summer walks

To the Editor:

It is a refreshing experience in the summer to walk along our many Vt. back roads and see the amazing resilience of nature at work. I traveled on foot down the hill this late afternoon, deciding to take a different route than usual, and walked steadily downhill for 20 minutes, giving me a real feel for the length of the hill and also a feeling of the smallness of my stride against that hill, under a blue sky with a temporary view of Burke Mtn.

Oftentimes on my walks, I will concentrate on the poor conditions of the roadsides - the erosion, the lack of vegetation from the road crew scraping the ditches - but today I saw the sharp, grey rip-rap lining the ditch being neatly laced with grapevine and feathery horsetail and other small creeping greenery. The lotus-like leaves of colts foot, often our earliest-blooming flower in the spring, a small dandelion of sorts, is everywhere on the roadside, being somewhat invasive, but also a welcome sight among the rockery and rough gravel fissures that result from the heavy rains.

Nature is more brilliant than any human artist, when one really looks and realizes the diversity of textures and colors and shapes of the leaf patterns along the road, and early summer is the time to take a close look. The delicate green fern fronds buoyed my spirits as I briskly marched down the road to my destination at the bottom, and I felt like Walt Whitman on the open road, rejoicing in every blade of grass.

At the bottom, I paused and marked my halfway point by picking off the yellow head of a black-eyed Susan and twirled it against the sun, while the neighbor's red beef cow watched from her thistly pasture. On my way back up, I took notice of all the blooming wildflowers that haven't been cut away - pink and sweet Bouncing Bet, the lace doily that we call Queen Anne's lace -- a graceful and sturdy roadside flower that helps stabilize the soil and prevent erosion, despite its delicate looks. Sadly, along this stretch, there is no chicory, the sky-blue flower that is my favorite and loves poor soil and waste places, a humble but truly elegant flower whose lesson of cheerfulness in the face of deprivation should give us all pause.

As I walk, I resolve to scatter chicory seeds along this road, in defiance of the annual roadside cutting-of-the-flowers, an event that seems to occur all throughout Vermont just when the wildflowers reach their peak but haven't yet had a chance to go to seed. My friends have all heard me declare that in my next life I am coming back as Commissioner of the Vt. Road Dept. and rectify this problem, among others. There will be chicory and Queen Anne's Lace for all.

As I begin to approach the "top" of the road, I'm trudging, but accompanied by many delightful blossoms that brighten my way. The tall, graceful stalks of Sweet White Clover lean into the road as if to force one to sniff their delicate fragrance, and I break off a few branches to put in the tall vase next to my sink to sniff at a later date. I am also lucky to be rewarded at the end of my hike uphill by many roadside milkweed blooms -- a common plant whose flowers are by some measure drab and homely but whose fragrance is a surprise -- a sweet and haunting perfume that turns one's head in wonder at the source of such a scent.

Being a roadside traveler has many rewards, the least of which is seeing again and again that mother nature is in command.

Lynn Wurzburg

St. Johnsbury, Vt.

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