Summer’s End

Summer’s End

I have seen the stars fall

Piercing the clouds

With brief bright flames

White-hot and evanescent.

I have watched the moon rise

Pared to a mouse-nibbled cheese

By sunlit, lazy days

Of parched grass and airless nights.

I have felt the dew form

Heavier than rain, breaking

Drowned cobwebs with

Swollen crystal drops.

I have breathed the night wind

Laden with day-lost scents

Waiting only for the chill

Of dark descending.

I have heard the dip and splash

And beak-full calls

Of kingfisher, sweet surprise,

Where none were known to be.

And I have smelled Autumn air,

Fungal and fruitful fragrant

Amid leaf litter and windfalls

And drowsy gorging wasps.

Summer Solstice Morning

Summer Solstice morning

I have not slept. I have spent the night tending the fire, gazing into the dancing flames and the embers that glow red amid the grey ash that coats them. It may be summer but the night has been chilly and my body aches with it, and with the enforced stillness. I’d like to feed the fire now, coax it into new life, but the purpose of the night was to keep the fire barely alive till the first sunlight breaks over the tree-clad horizon. I have fed the fire one stick at a time, keeping the balance between it remaining alight and the spark being extinguished for lack of fuel. On a normal day I would have banked the fire with slabs of turf hacked from the grass-clad slopes below my cave but this is part of my ritual, this meticulous slow tending to the spirit of the hearth.

Inside my cave, my cooking fire has burned low too, but I know I can rekindle that quickly and easily. My stomach growls and I think of hot tea and cakes made from the last of the autumn’s chestnuts, cooked on a flat stone in the margins of the hearth.

This is not about fire; this is not about light. And yet both are fundamental to this morning. If morning ever comes, that is, for the sky is midnight blue, speckled with stars and frayed with wisps of clouds that blur their twinkling.

But I can hear birds beginning to stir, to emit the first notes of their songs to greet the daylight with, and when I look again I can see that the stars are going out, one by one. The midnight blue has become greyish, and as I gaze into the blackness below the ledge where my cave opens out into a half moon of soft sand, I can see that the forest beyond is no longer a sea of darkness. I can see that there are trees as diffuse light strikes the leaves and branches, and very far off the line of night is vanishing as the first rays of sun pierce the sky. It will not be long, but my legs are cramping and I struggle to my feet, stamping and waving my arms to restore the blood flow to my body.

Like red eyes, the embers glow more brightly as the morning brings a stiff breeze that scatters the ashes and whips the last of the dying fire into one final bloom of flames. I stand very still, hearing the soft crackle, and I wait. The golden burst of sun-rays is sudden; it always takes me by surprise how swift it comes, this morning. As the light touches the forest and then reaches my little dwelling, I take my flask and I hold it up to the rising sun. Mead, from last year or the year before, sweet and strong. I drink deeply, gulping and letting it pour into me. Half for me, then I upend the flask so that the rest floods the fire. There is a hiss and a smell of honey, and the fire is out.

This day is the longest day and will need no ritual fire. The furnace of the sun is at its peak now and we shall need no more reminders of its power until the harvest comes.

I turn, wobbling slightly as the mead has gone to my head, and go inside to brew tea and brown sweet cakes before going about my day’s work, while outside the mountain I live on is warmed by the midsummer sun and the creatures I share the land with start their day. 

English summer

 

English summer

 

The roads weep tears of tar

As the country bakes.

The smell of dust and burning earth

Mingles with the scents

Of barbecues and beer.

Dogs pant, distressed

By this unusual heat.

The puddles that once

Were inland lakes, shrink,

Dry up and vanish,

Leaving cracking mud

Peppered with footprints.

A few days only,

And yet we crave rain,

A cooling breeze at least;

The nights a humid torment,

Skin sticking to sheets,

Mouth parched by 3 a.m,

Head pounding from poor sleep,

We curse the early birds,

The only ones pleased

To see the rising sun.

Lawns yellow, turn to straw,

The earth beneath unforgiving

As concrete or stone,

Holding the heat for hours

And giving it back all night.

Tempers fray, quarrels start,

Passions rise to boiling point.

The long days draw out,

Hellish hot and airless,

Fields whiten with ripening wheat,

The thrips infest my hair,

Tickling and torturing me

With pinpoint irritation

Grown great with weary heat.

Too brief, these days of sun:

Thunder storms relieve us,

The first drops sizzling

As they hit the burning ground.

The air, cool and damp,

Brings fresher nights

And better sleep for all.

The Gateway to Summer

PICT0827This is a picture I took a month or so back at Somerleyton Hall, a stately home and gardens about five miles from home. The gardens are especially lovely. Summer is about at an end and I thought this photo was a good reminder of the sunny days and flowers we’ve had.

I’m having trouble facing the darker days that are coming. I have to remind myself the light will return.

English Summer

English summer

 

The roads weep tears of tar

As the country bakes.

The smell of dust and burning earth

Mingles with the scents

Of barbecues and beer.

Dogs pant, distressed

By this unusual heat.

The puddles that once

Were inland lakes, shrink,

Dry up and vanish,

Leaving cracking mud

Peppered with footprints.

A few days only,

And yet we crave rain,

A cooling breeze at least;

The nights a humid torment,

Skin sticking to sheets,

Mouth parched by 3 a.m,

Head pounding from poor sleep,

We curse the early birds,

The only ones pleased

To see the rising sun.

Lawns yellow, turn to straw,

The earth beneath unforgiving

As concrete or stone,

Holding the heat for hours

And giving it back all night.

Tempers fray, quarrels start,

Passions rise to boiling point.

The long days draw out,

Hellish hot and airless,

Fields whiten with ripening wheat,

The thrips infest my hair,

Tickling and torturing me

With pinpoint irritation

Grown great with weary heat.

Too brief, these days of sun:

Thunder storms relieve us,

The first drops sizzling

As they hit the burning ground.

The air, cool and damp,

Brings fresher nights

And better sleep for all.

 

Summer Came Quickly

Summer came quickly

 

Summer came quickly this year,

Scarce a breath between

Daffodils and blooming may;

Blackthorn and whitethorn

Overlapped in flowering bliss.

Leaf buds unfurled so fast

I could not map their progress,

Leaping from tight knots

To silken green in moments.

The general rumble of rooks

Minding their business in treetops

Passed to the chaotic conversation

Of growing families in days.

The scent of new-mown grass

Hangs on the evening air

Like celestial incense burned

To honour the return of the Sun.

Summer came so quickly

Now I must mourn the Spring.