Autumn winds sweep in for a few days, making leaves dance and whipping up dervishes from cut grass.  But the winds can’t sweep away the summer sun.  It is still warm, dry and lazy.  Bees and hoverflies still throng dandelions and sow thistles.  Wherever I step, wasps drowse on the grass.  Speckled woods have replaced painted ladies.  Monster docks sway among the reeds in the burn, the most vivid bronzes and coppers of the season so far.  Two swallows dart over the grass.  Mallards and moorhens float on the pond.  A bird cheeps in the bushes.  Branches bleed with raspberries, rowan berries, rosehips.  The burn is dry, pools still and clear.  I struggle to feel the essence of September amid the lingering heat.

Two glorious weeks of respite from work, but not a straightforward holiday.  My wife is recovering from surgery and I have an ear infection that leaves the world muffled.  But a holiday at home has its advantages.  There is none of the upheaval of packing and going away.  There is the simplicity  of sleeping late in your own bed, pottering and preparing for the crossing between one season and another.  I prune and weed and get rid of rubbish.  Plant a late season rose bush and lavender to fill some empty pots.  I worry how many more of my rose leaves will be eaten.  But I have been pleased to see more insects than before in the yard, particularly moths.  A huge house spider in the bath heralds spider season.  I begin to notice all the tunnel webs on old walls.

On the day of the Harvest Moon, I take a walk back in time.  The church I went to as a child is having an open day.  I haven’t been here since I was nine or ten, when we moved, but I have a couple of clear memories and I want to know if it’s as I remember it.  Walking the streets I grew up on, I pass the traditional bakery, now derelict.  There is no sign of the corner antiques shop where I used to pet Sarah and Spencer the two St. Bernards.  The upstairs flat I lived in, with its floor length windows has been combined with the flat below into a nondescript house.  The sweet shop we used to visit for a 5 pence mix up appears unchanged, but you wouldn’t get much for 5 pence now.

Across the road from the church, the hall where I went to Brownies has been converted into an expensive house – sold off by the church as it was too expensive to maintain.  The church itself is not so different.  I clearly remember the chancel with its iron gates and grey marble floor, carved choir stalls and a relatively simple altar.  I remember the stone pillars in the nave.  But what I didn’t recall were the windows.  Three pairs along each side of the nave, commemorating people who were important to the church’s past.  Above the altar, a triptych of arches: Mary with her spectacular blue, star-studded robe, flanked by the fieriness of the other two windows.  I sit in a pew and enjoy the silence.  I watch trees flutter behind some of the windows, shadows blooming in the coloured glass.   My memories of being here are actually very few, but the building itself is clear in my memory.

Later in the week, an old-fashioned trip to the seaside for fish and chips, ice cream and 2 pence slot machines.  The bright blue sky and wispy white clouds signify a summer day, but there is a slight chill in the breeze.  A handful of swallows dance over the waves.  Two herring gulls perch on gutweed covered rocks.  Out at sea, the ship Aegir might be servicing the wind farm or perhaps extending it.  It will dock at the marina later and I’ll see its crane towering above the roofs in the park.

The sycamore in the park that always heralds autumn is definitely dead.  It has remained bare all year round.  But the new whitebeam has survived.  It boasts orange berries and frilled leaves.  Someone has piled a moat of cut grass in a circle around one of the cherry trees.  Perhaps they remember last autumn when, for a time, it became a portal to another world.  For now, the world still belongs to summer.  I have had the fire on for the first time this season.   At times there is a chill and the air is grey.  But summer lingers, never quite crossing the threshold into autumn.

Blogger book of the month: Alethea Kehas – A Girl Named Truth

Order a Girl Named Truth on AmazonAlethea Kehas is a writer and healer, who writes poetry, memoir and spiritual pieces among other things on her blog.  A Girl Named Truth is a brave and beautiful memoir exploring the nature of truth. The starting point is the author’s name – Alethea – which means ‘truth’. As a child, she feels that because of her name she has an obligation to be truthful, but this is no easy task when she is unable to distinguish the truth of the stories told by those close to her and when their emotional demands cause her to fear speaking out. The author’s life is defined by a mother who runs away with her and her sister, away from her biological father, to set up home with a stepfather the author is in fear of. The memoir explores abuse, bullying, conditional and unconditional love and ultimately healing. The subjects in this book aren’t easy and I felt much sympathy for the dilemmas and events she must face. But nevertheless I found it an easy book to read and wanted to go back to it, hoping for the healing it would bring. The author is clear that this is the truth as she experienced it and I was glad that by the end she had found a resolution and acceptance which was both moving and hopeful.   You can find Alethea here and her books are available on Amazon.

A joyful interlude


I don’t normally take part in challenges, my muse is too slippery for that, but when Alethea Kehas over at Not Tomatoes challenged me to write about the word joy it seemed serendipitous, because it is a word that I’ve noticed myself using increasingly often.  Thank you to Alethea for inviting me to take part in the #3.2.1 Me challenge, which involves writing about the chosen word and including two quotes, before nominating three others to take part.  You can visit Alethea here to find out what she made of the word inspiration, but for now, here is a brief joyful interlude.

The ridge’s bosses and hummocks sprout bulging from its side; the whole mountain looms miles closer; the light warms and reddens; the bare forest folds and pleats itself like living protoplasm before my eyes, like a running chart, a wildly scrawling oscillograph on the present moment. The air cools; the puppy’s skin is hot. I am more alive than all the world. (Annie Dillard – Pilgrim at Tinker Creek)

Joy has always seemed to me an extravagant word.  Beyond contentment, beyond happiness.  A word for unbridled feeling, for ecstasy.  It seems fit only for big spectacles and life-changing events.  It is not an everyday word.  Strangely, it’s a word I often come across in the negative: ‘no joy’ or a sarcastic ‘deep joy’ to describe someone’s negative feelings about something.  The positive phrases that include the word, such as ‘jump for joy’, ‘pride and joy’ or ‘full of the joys of spring’ are so diluted that they no longer have any real meaning.  Joy in its truest sense seems a word mainly used for Christmas.  And yet I find myself noticing the word more often than I ever have and I wonder why I didn’t feel it was appropriate before.

For me, joy isn’t confined to spectacle or achievement.  It is something I most often experience in those small moment of life that we come to realise are the big moments.  It isn’t about the satisfaction of something gained or done well.  It isn’t about an item checked off a bucket list or an ambition finally reached.  Yes, there is delight in those moments, but for me, joy is something both smaller and deeper than that.

Joy is the delight I feel when I hear my dog dreaming and watch the twitch of his nose and paws.  It is the tilt of his head and the wag of his tail.  Joy is in the wild whip of the wind and the teem of rain.  It is the exuberance of blossom and the shimmer of autumn leaves; the scent of the sea and the crash of a wave on the shore.  Joy is the stab of excitement when I witness the wanderings of a badger or the dart of a kingfisher.

Joy is the feeling of awe at being alive and able to experience this one moment just for you.  When the earth seems to shimmer, to lay our her wares and say, here, this is what it is all about.  It is the moment described by Annie Dillard of being so clearly in the present that no matter whether you are at a gas station (in her case) or in the most astounding wilderness, you feel completely alive and completely connected.

In September dawns I hardly breathe – I am an image in a ball of glass. The world is suspended there, and I in it.  (Nan Shepherd – The Living Mountain)

I can feel joy even when I am sad, because, for me,  it isn’t about happiness.  It’s about awe and it’s about connection to the earth.  When I feel that I am a part of this earth, when my skin seems to tremble from being in the world, then I feel joy.  Then I know that my daily worries don’t matter, that what does matter is being a part of this.  I am coming to grips with joy.  Coming to know that it is a word that does fit into my world after all.  It isn’t too extravagant, because there is nothing more extravagant than this world.  It is not a word only to be sung out in carols or written on cards at just one time of year, it is a word for every season and the quiet wonders that each one contains.

I’ll pass on the challenge to: Jeanne at, StilladreamerLuda at PlantsandBeyond and Pat at Equipsblog but you are under absolutely no obligation to accept.  If you do, the word is ‘vision’.  Write about the word, including two quotes and pass on the challenge to three other bloggers.