Parched

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In the heart of the heatwave, our usual walks are too exposed to the glare of the sun.  My dog doesn’t like the heat and neither do I.  Seeking relief, we visit one of our less frequent haunts.  The path was once a railway line, hauling coal to the coast.  Here there is shade and shadow under bridges and trees.  The hedgerows burst with bramble and bindweed blossoms.  Stinging nettles as high as my waist and wild roses like vintage china.  Speckled wood butterflies and hoverflies like lozenges of amber.  Though the sun is blazing, the fog horn signals a sea fret in the distance.  It is still too hot, even in the shade.  A blackbird sunbathes at the edge of the path. He’s a beauty, with glossy feathers and a bright orange bill. He spreads out his wings and lies with his back to the sun, in a posture thought to get rid of parasites and spread the preening oil in his feathers.

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We are used to a more temperate heat.  Not this dry glare that continues for weeks with no forecast for rain.  The grass parches and begins to yellow.  Leaves droop and curl.  On the moors in the north west of the country, a fire rages.  I find spiders drowned in my dog’s water bowl in their search for refreshment.  Amid nights of disturbed sleep, there are strange, vivid dreams: I watch volcanic ash tumble down like snow; I climb precarious wooden structures to escape grizzly bears circling below.  And I dream of rain: heavy, drenching rain that washes away the heat.  I fill the watering can and water spilled on stone gives off the soothing petrichor smell of rain like a false prophet.  Morning sea frets bring some relief.  But there is no hope of rain for a while yet.
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I struggle to find poetry in the glare of the sun, when it is too hot to breathe or to think.  I walk with eyes scrunched against the dazzle.  The landscapes this sun reveals are too harsh, too flat.  Fire is the element I’m least drawn to, and when I am, it’s the flame of a fire on a cold day or the dance of candlelight, not the unrelenting heat.  Time seems to pass more slowly in this heat – particularly when I don’t want it to.  It saps energy and inspiration.  This hottest part of summer isn’t conducive to creating.  It seems designed for lethargy.

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But there is a poetry to the sun, and to me, its poetry is in its nuances of light.  It is not in the noon brilliance, but at the book ends of the day when the air is golden or gauzy blue.  It is in the deep pooling of darkness within the light, the relief of shade, the shape of shadows.  The falling of light on a leaf, making it translucent, the way it gilds a buttercup.  The dappling of light and the way it shafts through the canopy to highlight the undergrowth.  Dandelion clocks become spheres of quartz in the morning sun.  Gold washes the underside of seagulls’ wings near sunset.  Stone becomes honey and the sky blushes.

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Without these patterns of the sun, the world would have only one note.  It is in the contrasts and the wavering spectrum of light that the landscape finds its character.  It is easy to forget the life-giving properties of the sun when it seems only to desiccate and deplete, but in the depths of December, when my bones are chilled, I will appreciate that my skin was touched by its warmth.  When the nights grow long and I feel that I have always woken to darkness, I will remember waking to the shimmer of dawn.

 

76 thoughts on “Parched

  1. I’m sorry you are having such a heat wave that is unnatural to you! Unfortunately, we here in Texas are used to the blazing summer sun. At least you have a place to find shade – waist high nettles and wild roses like antique china – what a description! Yes, will you remember the heat in the cold of winter and remember the warmth? Stay as cool as you can!

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  2. Such vivid images here Andrea so the sun hasn’t completely fried your inspiration. I can see you walking along with your eyes scrunched against the dazzle enjoying gilded buttercups and preening blackbirds. Poor pup, though. My dog doesn’t like the heat either. When I take him out for a walk he just lays down in the grass with his head between his paws and refuses to move.

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  3. Sunlight is amazing. I particularly like how the color of the light changes both with the seasons and the time of day. I just wish I could paint well enough to capture the light as it shifts, shimmers, dazzles, blinks, winks, blazes and ebbs.

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  4. The glare of the sun seems to ruin lot of things but it is necessary for the beauty you see at the bookends its cycle. The gaps between the sun beams, and the shadows are also a thing of beauty, we cant have one without the other. I just checked out the weather you are having and its comparable to the heat here. Welcome to the tropics!

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  5. A piece of overwhelming beauty born out of undulating dance of the naked sun. It’s amazing how the heat holds promise of contrasting elements like water and wind, in the sighs of the sea and the spillage on the stones, in the dappled corners of abandoned woods.

    Out here in the subcontinent we are used to a much more fiery sun, one that blooms blisters on the skin and bakes it from within.

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  6. I found myself nodding as I read, recognizing the perfect descriptions for what we’ve been experiencing, too. The bookends of the day are the best parts right now . . .

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  7. When I was out for a walk yesterday, an old woman with a perm and a walking stick said as she passed me by “Roll on the winter”. My response was, “No, thanks. I feel the cold.” I’m guessing that if that same woman passed me in the winter, she’d say, “Roll on the summer,” and I’d say, “Too right!” 😉 I shared with son the comments that I’d resisted saying to this lady yesterday, which were, “Why aren’t you wearing a hat?” (thinking, she doesn’t want to squash her perm, so puts vanity over comfort!) and, “Vitamin D is good for your bones and will strengthen them against breakage should you slip on the ice (maybe roll on it, too) in the winter.”

    We are funny mortals, aren’t we, Andrea? I’m loving the summer, under my big hat and wearing my huge sunglasses, but I know that some people find it too much. But every season has its beauty, including summer, as you’ve described so well. I’ve seen some wonderful butterflies this year and many more than in the last few damp squib summers, and there are hundreds of bees on my large bed of lavender, both honey and bumble bees, so they’re obviously enjoying the heat. And, most important of all, the snails have gone into hiding for a while.

    I admit to not being so creative at the moment and spending too much time drifting and musing. Every day I say I’ll do better, but every day I don’t. Have revamped my blog, though, so I guess that’s a type of creativity of the technical kind. Along the way I’ve learned some very interesting things that I didn’t know you could do on WP to unclutter your site and speed up its loading time. When I can get my act in order, I’ll write a post about it, as it’s fun discovering new things and sharing them with others!

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    • I think we probably needed a good bit of heat after the long winter, but I’ve never been great at heat, unless there’s a swimming pool to dive into! I’m always more comfortable in autumn and winter, but of course we couldn’t do without the sun, it’s good to feel the heat after a long winter, and to have those light mornings and evenings and being able to sit outside – but a little rain too please 🙂 These days are good for musing and drifting – I’ll look forward to learning what you’ve found out about WP – I just muddle along and hope I get it right!

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  8. I’ve never heard a hot day described more eloquently, Andrea. The setting sounds beautiful, if hot.
    It’s been very hot here too for weeks. However, finally we have several days of normal hot and oppressive humidity… rather than the extreme we’ve been having.
    The pup is a real cutie. Hugs on the wing!

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  9. Such beautiful description and really evokes this heatwave in the U.K. I have experienced some of it and am now back in the Spanish summer where ironically we retreat inside in the middle of the day and emerge late into the cooler nights!

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  10. Another eloquent walk in your world Andrea. Thanks for sharing the many shades of sun, from subtle to overwhelming. I used to like the sun and heat and now find less tolerance for it. But I do love the seasons and growth that comes with summer sun and heat. May we appreciate where we are.

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  11. Despite the draining heat, your words ring with poetry. It’s hot here, too. If I still lived in Florida, I’d feel hopeless, because it never ended. Now at least I can look forward to an eventual cool down.

    Lovely photos. Do you live near he ocean?

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  12. There seems no loss of creativity in this post, despite the heat! We do enjoy your usual attention to the small details. The world is full of beautiful things even in a heatwave. Wishing you cooler nights and some refreshing sea breezes by day.

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  13. Poignant as always, Andrea: you’ve captured the essence of this memorable summer. I am fortunate: I can adjust my days to this all too brief interlude of heat and do as little as possible beyond savouring the harshness of the light and the dessicated hedgerows; watering the plants which will only continue to bloom if I continue to care for them, and relishing the cool of the lingering late evenings and the often spectacular sunsets. All too soon these bright days will be distant memories 🙂

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  14. Beautiful thoughts on summer, especially the spectrum of light, warmth, and necessity of the sun. It is life-giving, indeed. I do prefer autumn and spring; our summers here in North Carolina are so intense. It’s not only the heat, but it’s also the drenching, suffocating humidity. And mosquitoes. I’m an outside person, so the summers are rough. I’m not sure how I managed to be an estate gardener for 15 years, but I did. I don’t think I could do it full time now. Autumn will be here before we know it. Not a minute too soon:)

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  15. Beautifully written, Andrea. The contrast of seasons of winter and summer is something I often think about, given the harsh winters we have here in the northeast US. It helps on the hot days to appreciate it isn’t -10F!

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  16. Boy, am I with you when the sun rages for long periods of time with no relief. We recently went through 10 days like that here. Your last photo captures the shimmer so well, and I love the long purple shadows cast on the mud flat. Oh – and what is a sea fret? For all the unbearableness of ongoing heat, you’ve still made it have some appeal through your words and photos.

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  17. Andrea, it can be a struggle not to let the sun and heat flatten the ability to write. I find it difficult to write in the Arizona summer. But being indoors with air conditioning helps, although it keeps me from nature.

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  18. The beauty and poetic flow of the images you paint in your reflections reveal the magic of nature so compellingly, Andrea. Even when describing drought you find moments of respite and wonder.

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  19. Intense heat is not my thing at all. I’m OK in the mornings but in the afternoons a siesta seems too tempting. We’re not set up for it in this country are we? I have a Greek friend and she finds the British in a heatwave extremely entertaining!

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  20. “Without these patterns of the sun, the world would have only one note.” So poetically true. I’ve always known (through your writing) that you’re not a summer lover – more fall and spring, and maybe even winter. I actually bask in the sun and the heat (though not the humidity we can get here in New England). I feel my inside tissue stretch and sigh, Yessssssssssss. And again I wonder, why don’t we humans have a little solar engine inside us in which we can store up this sun heat and reuse it in the winter? ;-0
    But summer rain is glorious and needed – I hope you all get some soon.

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  21. Heat and too much sun are maybe not your cup of tea, but your writing captures the feelings they trigger. I grew to accept heat and the dreambeat of the sun, but they don’t trigger my favorite moments either. Stay cool and continue to write, Andrea!

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  22. Oh, I wish I could send you some rain from here. It rains incessantly here. It seems spring went away too soon there…I read your posts on winter, then maybe one or two in Spring and its Summer already. Loved the description though however uncomfortable it is. You tc.

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    • It does seem we went straight from winter to summer this year, so I wonder what autumn will bring – I’ll swap you some of our dryness for your rain, but I’m sure you already have enough heat of your own!

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