Wednesday, June 22, 2011

The dying of the light

It rained in the night, but the morning was clear and crisp, as though the day had been fleshly washed. And in a way it was, for last night was the summer solstice, the cusp of the year. At this point on the earth's restless curve around the sun, we in the northern hemisphere are tilted as close as we can get to its light. From here on, the light declines to the short days of winter. The swifts, stitching the summer skies with their screams, must know that they have only a few weeks at best before they must be gone. Even the curlews, trilling over the summer meadows, must dream of windswept coasts and open beaches.
I walked today in an old oak wood on the shores of Crummock Water, and wondered if the trees know that the solstice has passed, whether they feel the slough of autumn heavy in their limbs. On wet sunlit days like these, one can almost feel the ambivalent pull of the tree; its roots squirming for water, its limbs stretching for light. Somehow, these two forces are held in perfect equilibrium, striving for a balance which eludes us, out of kilter as we are with the rhythm of the seasons.

On the way home, the hedgerows were blowsy with the summer opulence of honeysuckle and roses, the verges sprinkled with ox-eye daisies, slowly turning their faces to the receding sun. In mainland Europe, these flowers are more firmly associated with midsummer; in Germany, one of their folk names is Sunnwendbleaml or 'solstice flower'. A flower for the turning of the light. A talisman against the chaff of modern living.

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