by Rev. John Howard Farmer
Summertime is a special time of the year. We have almost all reserved it for rest and relaxation. It is a time for family picnics, occasional outings and vacations. It is a time for reflection.
I believe it was the actor, humorist and writer Will Rogers (1879–1935) who once said that “a day spent in procrastination was not a complete waste of time,” or something of that manner.
Big spots of greenery in our former river cottage yard are inhabited by clover. It was so special to ride through the clover, smell the fresh mown lawn and watch the bees flit hither and yon. I am reminded of a poem published in the July 1889 issue of Vick’s Illustrated Magazine. It is “In Clover,” by American hymnist and writer Eben E. Rexford (1848-1916). Read along with me:
“Lie me down in clover, where daises scatter snow, and the yellow bees fly over as my fancies come and go.
“Dwellers in a royal palace have not softer couch than mine; and, lo, here’s a lily chalice, brimming with the morning’s wine.
“Yonder brook sings low and softly; but I cannot catch its words, as they blend in silvery music with the notes of breeze and birds.
“In this sweet, still summer weather it is easy to forget that our life has toil or trouble, has a cloud, a jar, or fret.
“Why should we try to remember? It is well to dream and rest, and forget that we grow weary, though our dreams are dreams at best.
“Happy he who puts away thoughts of daily life and strife, who is deaf to din and discord jarring through the chords of life.
“Let me lie in clover, as a child on mother’s breast, and awhile the hours fly over, dream sweet dreams of peace and rest.”
Oh, there was a time when my pink pudgy feet would wander through the clover. Now they are captive to steel arch supports and tight-laced shoes. Best I keep them that way, if you know what I mean? Still, youthful remembrances abide. At heart, I am always a child.
Some of my best church memories are of afternoon services, which were part of an all-day singing and dinner on the grounds. The women folk prepared all week for the feast laid out on truck bodies and hay wagons. Sophisticated churches had occasional one-bys nailed between trees and spread with assorted fine linens from this and that closet.
Our Irvington lunch planks were long ago incorporated into the restoration of Fran and Wayne Nunnally’s King Carter Drive construct extraordinaire.
White enameled buckets held sugar-sweetened tea. Piles of sliced lemon rested in yellow pottery serving bowls. Nearby gallons of fresh lemonade held chill in ceramic jugs, with stainless steel push button spouts. Fried chicken, roast beef, ham biscuits and assorted vegetables weighed down the tables. Then, my favorite spot on the banquet fare: dessert a-plenty.
There was a camaraderie-beautiful on those summer church days. A morning service, while in the cool of the day. Prayers were hoisted, hymns were lifted, the word was preached and an offering given. Dismissed with a blessing to the shade we would go. Old friends and new would kindle warm the day. Tales of Brother Smith and Sister Sue and how they were sorely missed, spiced the meal.
The day slowed with heat and full tummies. As the sun moved behind the church we would go back inside. All the windows were open, and you could hear the laughter of the children playing ball and tag. Strains of soft music began as Sister Janice pumped the old organ. A chord or two into the hymn an always slightly out-of-tune piano, piloted by Sister Carol, joined voices. Those first few minutes were holy indeed. The medley of favorites drew the grown-ups inside.
As the day lengthened, eyes weighed heavy. Funeral home fans waved nostalgic. The prayers grew sweeter, the singing, too. The afternoon message was always short, to the point and well spent. The guest quartets and duets brought tears to our eyes, thoughts to our minds and love to our hearts. As sunset threatened and evening storms brewed we retreated to the yard to collect leftovers, exchange recipes, gather up the kids and repair the damage to church and grounds. Of course, we grumbled about all the work, the heat and how loud were the kids. The smiles said otherwise, the tears on departure too.
Ah, yes ‘tis summer and my memory at least is in clover. My heart is in church.