Brief delights

Summer is a season of brief delights.  Tiny beings on gossamer wings cloud the air for fleeting moments.  Meadows undulate in an abrupt dazzle of colour.  Birds swoop in from their long journeys to a frenzy of feasting and breeding.  It is a season where things appear like magic, before vanishing as though they were never there.  Where do they come from – the flies and the beetles and the butterflies?  Where do they go to when their season has ended?  They appear and then they fade, leaving behind traces on the air and the memory of wings.  Summer’s long, light days can seem tantalisingly slow, and many of us remember treacly summers of our youth that were never-ending.  But summer’s delights are ephemeral and the season rarely seems to linger in the way the dark, raw days of winter do.

In the long, slow turn of the seasons, I see the pattern of a writer’s life.  A cycle of hope and despair, of tunnelling inwards to find a nugget of wisdom and reluctantly re-emerging to display it to the world.  But if the writing life is a long game, then summer is those brief, dazzling moments of success.  It is the moment when you write ‘the end‘; the competition prize or commendation; the moment when you see your words in print; the pleasing comment or review.  For most of us it isn’t a best-selling novel or Pulitzer Prize, it is a series of brief delights, that dazzle us temporarily, before we head once more into the doubt doldrums or the hard work of putting one word after another.  Sometimes these dazzling moments seem far apart, like midwinter yearning for spring.

Summer is a season of expansiveness.  A time to use the long hours of light and warmth to replenish us for the winter ahead.  In this season, I feel the hope of sending my work out into the world.  The stories jostling for a home will find one; the manuscript waiting for an agent won’t be discarded.  That hope and what it may bring sustains me as a writer, just as the memory of summer comforts me when the light is low and the cold chatters my bones.

Of course summer’s brief delights don’t appear from nowhere, and nor do those of a writer’s life.  They are the result of months, even years, of preparation.  The larvae creeping through the mud, waiting for wings.  The seed incubating in the earth, waiting for petals.  The story percolating in the mind, waiting for its words.  Their magic is that of toil and transformation.  So it is no wonder there is delight when they finally emerge.  No wonder summer has a frivolity lacking in all the other seasons.  It is a time to bask in these transient delights.   We will bid them farewell soon enough and move towards the bittersweet dark.  And as we do, perhaps we will cast a wistful look behind us and remember the dazzle of the light.

Many thanks to James Clark for recommending this post to WordPress Discover.  James is very generous in highlighting the work of other bloggers, why not pay him a visit at https://jamesclarkthenextiteration.wordpress.com

Greeting the dawn

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We slip out in the half-light of solstice morning and head for the sea.  It’s the beginning of the longest day and our purpose is to greet the sun as it rises.  We head for our island, our soul-place, to watch the dawn.  Already we can see that the sun is in hiding behind thick cloud and the signs are that it won’t be visible all day.  The clouds are blue-grey and pink-blushed.  A small slash in the clouds seeps orange light.  It’s chillier than it has been all this hot, humid week.  As the dawn progresses, we still don’t see the sun, but narrow shafts of light fall from sky to sea creating a luminous path across the water.

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Sunrise and low tide are within fifteen minutes of one another today.  This seems appropriate, for the solstice is the tipping point when the sun stands still for a moment in time, before the year begins to ebb and low tide is a point when the tide stands still just before it turns.  We create an image of the sun, using shells and kelp so that we’ll leave nothing permanent behind us.  It’s a transitory image that will be washed away by the next high tide.  An honouring of the sun at the height of its power, but also an acknowledgement that this power is transient and will soon begin to fade into shorter, colder days.  Alone on the beach, two women and a dog, we welcome the sun, thanking it for its light, which gives us life.

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The luscious spring is giving way to summer.  Spring has seemed limitless.  So much abundance of life, prompted by the warm weather and rainy start to the year.  The landscape is changing every week.  Right now, it’s the season of meadows.  There’s something blithe and joyful about meadows: slender, delicate flowers and feathery grasses blurring into a mass of colour and texture.  I smile as I walk along paths bordered by meadows.

Summer is bright, expansive and open, but it is also the season of tiny things.  Things that flit across our path so quickly we don’t know what they are.  Things that hide in the undergrowth and buzz among the leaves.  Creatures that have their own miniature beauty if we take the time to study them.

And it is the season of babies, emerging into the wondrous and perilous world.  The gull nesting across from my office is now guarding two fluffy chicks.  Baby starlings click and hiss in parks and on pavements.  And at the ponds, the ducklings have appeared.

It’s the season of empowerment, when we use the height of the sun’s energy to replenish and charge our batteries for the autumn that will come soon enough.  And a time when we turn outwards, to seek worldly success.  For me, it’s a season of unwinding.  Many of the writing goals I set myself are well on their way to being achieved.  And once my book went out to query and stories out for submission, it was like a natural stop.  This time for me is less about the ‘work’ of writing and more about fun and exploration.  So I’ve been taking a rest from fiction to blog and paint, which feels like the right way to re-charge my creative energies for the harvest to come.

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And like a glorious omen, our solstice morning ends with delight.  My novel, The skin of a selkie, is set on this island with seals featuring strongly in the story.  But although I know that they occasionally visit, in all the years I’ve come to this place I’ve never once seen a seal on the island.  Until, that is, this morning.  There, out on the rocks, half a dozen grey seals, at rest.  We watch them from a distance so as not to disturb them    To be here, on solstice morning and to see those seals with my book out there awaiting its fate, well, it feels like a gift just for us.