Letter From Minnesota:
‘At Mid-Summer’s Day’
by Bodwyn Wook
A Coolish lovely southern Minnesota day is wending to its close, here on the North Coast of Iowa. It has been variously cloudy and thundery, and sometimes the rain has poured down — whereas on the wireless they say that there have been out-and-out severe storm watches and warnings away up North, by the twin cities of Minneapolis and old Saint Paul.
And, way out West in South Dakota, ’twas said earlier at the top of the afternoon, that there were thunderstorms abroad and stalking the hither prairies with a capacity to produce — and, I quote the american announcer on ‘Public Radio’ — “…baseball-sized hail!”
After all these ructions, it is interesting to note that we here, in northeastern Faribault county, seem altogether to be despised by really odious weather, and we have been for the past three years or so….
That is fine with me, and I only want to note here that now, for us here at home, the Summer truly has begun:
THE Very first of the second-year hollyhocks have opened in bloom just to-day.
THAT Same hollyhock is the old-fashioned flower of my boyhood Summers fifty years ago and thirty miles North of here, on the high and dry, and alas to-day farmed-out and chemicalised, cement-like, high ground of my mother’s people, between Eagle Lake and Madison Lake.
The hollyhocks are in bloom, and the peasant grackles have hatched yet another nest of their repulsive and squawling, cast iron, offspring in the junipers that flank the South and East sides of this 1950s-built old convent of pink brick and limestone trim.
They themselves bear too the ungrateful weight of metaphor:
THE Adult birds sneer and mock non-stop at our two cats if the latter even hop up to lie upon the glider in the porch for a nap, and they make one think, inevitably and unkindly, of those old county families — every county in the american upper Middle-west has several — whose three- and five-generational involvement, with the relief-office and the sheriff’s department, make them actually themselves a variety of hereditary civil servant.
Because it is a fact, the policing- and welfare-budgets would not be so lavish, and the artful begging appeals by fat-bodied county board-men (and, ‘their’ typically real estate-dealing women!) everywhere in the land to the state and federal governments, for subsidies of additional ‘free’ money to ‘help’ these poor clientised blood-lines, none of it would be half-so-persuasive, and the the ‘helping-professional’ classes hereabouts would not root and “feed so high up on the hog,” as they say in these parts.
THE Hollyhock, then, is an untidy drooping flower that takes rust and mildews often and is, altogether, less-sightly rather-more-often than not. Together then with the symbolic grackle and its squawking young, that hollyhock is the perfect emblem, of this less-than-perfect society here at home in the mosquitoes and swelter and inexplicable rashes and itches from the farm-chemistry on every hand and breeze, in the american “Good Old Summertime.”
[Emmett R Smith all rights reserved 21 June 2007]