Fragrant wildflowers bloomed along the roadside and down into the ditches. Their deliciously sweet aromas drifted by and caressed our noses as they faded into thin air. But we didn't have time to stop and pick ‘em, and we didn't have time to smell the roses, either. I waved at the beautiful monarch butterflies as they flitted from bush to bush. Then I swatted at the bumble bees as they buzzed dizzily through the hot, humid air, kissing flowers and spreading their sweet nectar from one blossom to another. As we gazed across the vast landscape, the soft, green grass looked so inviting. I wanted so badly to go and wallow on it for a while, but since we were wearing our Sunday best, we couldn't do that. Plus, we didn’t have time to go “fielding” that day.
Little birdy-birds chirped from high up in treetops, their spindly, crow-like feet perched precariously on thin, leafy branches blown by summer’s gentle breeze. Cows meandered through thick, grassy pastures or relaxed under the biggest shade tree they could find; shielding themselves from the sweltering hot sun, their long tails swishing from side-to-side swatting bothersome flies as they chewed their cuds over and over and over again. Unlike us, they didn’t have to go to church, so they could kick back under their favorite tree for as long as they wanted. They were so laid-back that they didn’t even seem bothered by those leechy black birds bumming a ride on their hairy backs. Since they were content with those freeloaders, we didn’t try to shoo 'em away. I was too scared to go into the pasture anyway, so we just kept right on trucking.
When we walked a mile or two on a clear, cloudless day, the sun was shining so strongly that even the dirt was uncomfortably hot. If it is a real Southern summer day, it is hot and humid, so at the midway point we rested under a sprawling shade tree, but we couldn’t linger too long. When we got to the end of that second lane, it dead-ended into an enclosed pasture. Then we turned right onto "Sleepy Hollow" — the most peaceful stretch I have ever trod. At that point, the hot, sandy road gave way to a much cooler carpet underneath our feet. With so many overhanging branches, that path looked like a mile-long canopy of arms stretched out over our sweaty heads. Those giant trees reached across that narrow, dusty road and shook hands with each other. As they did, the sun faded into the background and that shady stretch became a very pleasant walk on a too-hot day.
We finally breathed a sigh of relief and enjoyed the scenery on that last mile before we got to church. If we walked the entire distance barefooted and carried our shoes and socks, we stopped up the road from the church and finished getting dressed. Then, beaming like bright sunflowers, we walked into the sanctuary in clean white socks and shiny, black patent-leather "Sunday-go-to-meeting" church shoes on ... just like the girls who rode to church in their family's old, run-down "limousine.”
Photo by Getty Images/R-J-Seymour