Almanack Essays: More is More

On earth and only on earth are sunset glow, green leaf, and eyes to see them. Here is all we know of reality, all-sufficient to our destiny, our thoughts and passions.

 Donald Culross Peattie

Summer’s natural history includes names and numbers of flowers, insects, mammals, fish, leaves, odors, textures, colors, sounds, and tastes. The longest days bring high tide for new growth, and almost everything the land contains seems to be in motion and be visible.

From this noon in time, the hands of the biological clock move down toward winter. And with our large brains, we rationalize about the loss. We create compensation for decay. We philosophize about transcendence and divinity, indestructible souls, heaven beyond the sky, salvation in kindness and love, immortality through children or influence. We try to believe in the resurrection of the dead and life everlasting. We try to understand how matter and energy are one, how nothing is ever truly destroyed, how spirit is forever in motion, transformed from action to atom to action.

Photo by Shulamit H. Adler

Photo by Shulamit H. Adler

But we wonder, really, if life is not actually measured in quantity and presence, measured like the longest days. The absence of leaves and flowers and grass and warmth in winter is beautiful only in the context of its covenant with presence. An appreciation of snow and empty branches rises primarily from an aesthetic which values cold and dissolution only if their opposites are certain. In that context, we tolerate the receding tide, find meaning in the yellowing foliage, in the autumn flowers, in the departure of the birds. And we find consolation in natural history like we find consolation in our own history, in recollection of our finest, longest days.

Here is the truth, it seems to me: Summer is measured in quantity, in the experience of bounty. Memory and longing are always second best. Accumulation does not always add up to ecstasy, but it reminds us of what is true. It affirms and proves what we know in this season, that less is not more, and that our imagined God and Paradise are the defiant and fantastic signs of an enduring June’s immediate and peerless abundance.

Bill Felker


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