Monday, 12 August 2013

After the summer's heat

There is mist across the valley this morning, morphing the view into something less familiar and shortening my horizons. It is the first such mist for many months and hints at the approaching summer’s end and a period of transition. The recent rain has replenished the parched ground and the air hangs heavy with moisture, as if the Earth itself has exhaled to release her sweet breath.

Walking the short turf of the lawn wets my feet and leaves behind footsteps that outline my passing, each a darker patch of moisture etched within the carpet of silvery white dew. Should I walk the meadow I would return with my trousers soaked, the fabric covered with grass seeds and the bodies of small invertebrates, each held tightly to the cloth by a meniscus of dew.

The air feels deliciously cool but carries with it the first sweet scents of autumn, the merest hint of woodland fungi that will undertake the process of breaking down much of the season’s harvest. Two swifts pass overhead on silent wings, feeding as they journey south; they provide an echo of the noisy juveniles that were such a feature of July. It is a morning that feels like summer’s end, a shifting of the seasons and a sign that, to use a phrase from Ted Hughes, ‘the world’s still turning’. This transition can be a gradual one, a mix of days hinting at a return to summer but then switching to suggest that autumn is already here.

It is one of my favourite times of the year, with a strong sense that much of the natural world is on the move. Migrant birds from more northerly breeding grounds are already passing through on passage south. Many will attract the interest of birdwatchers, perhaps myself included, but for now I am content with my local ‘patch’ and the changes I can see within it as the hedgerow fruits ripen, crickets chirp and house martins and swallows gather on the wires. These cool mornings suggest renewal but of a different kind to that encountered in the spring and my spirits soar as I experience the pull of season’s end and look towards the approach of autumn.

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