Summer in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

From my nonfiction collection, Shenandoah Watercolors.

The Alleghenies are shrouded in mist this morning and the colors muted. Columbine blooms outside my kitchen window, a mass of pink bells. I’ve planted all kinds of columbine because it’s one of my absolute favorites. I have the red-yellow woods variety too and the blue one from Colorado. The roses beside the old, red barn are so big and thorny, like guardians of Sleeping Beauty’s castle, and badly need pruning.

I’ve a sea of herbs and flowers ever changing with the season. Some perennials are lost each winter and new ones are planted by me and my nature child, Elise; still others by the birds. One wild aster, carried to us on the wind, blooms in late spring. The robust plants are covered with small white flowers and very pretty really, although difficult to contain. I’m partial to white flowers, glowing at dusk while all else fades.

Several plants reign supreme because of Elise. ‘Magic flowers,’ yellow evening primrose, have taken over a generous quadrant at the edge of the vegetable garden. She rushes me out at twilight to view the wonder as they pop open, charging the air with fragrance. Hummingbird moths swoop in like little fairies to feed on the blossoms.

Dill is also rampant because black swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs on its leaves and hatch into little caterpillars which she watches closely, puts some into jars and feeds until they make a chrysalis. Then one day they emerge with wet crumpled wings and she releases them to the sky. I feel a bit like those uncertain butterflies, taking those first tentative flights.

Elise showed me where the robin is tucked down in her nest in one of the crabapple trees. She knows where the soft, brown dove nests in the pear, where the six goslings are at any given moment, and is on the prowl for the new kittens, but that wily mother cat has hidden them well.

Author’s note: Elise, now in college, still loves the garden(s) and is my right hand. This pic is one taken of our farm.

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