Sunday, August 28, 2011

And all to sweetness turns


To-day I think
Only with scents, - scents dead leaves yield,
And bracken, and wild carrot's seed,
And the square mustard field;
Odours that rise
When the spade wounds the root of tree,
                                             Edward Thomas, 'Digging'


Mornings like these I take my first cup of tea outside onto the porch and, as it cools, I watch the clouds slowly unravelling over the mountains. The sun, slow now to rise, offers a welcome but fragile warmth as it rises above the trees. I can smell autumn in the air, although at this time of year, it touches only the early morning and late evening; a crepuscular scent of earth and fungus, of the metallic taint of stone moistened by dew.
We walk along lanes striped by the honeyed light of a low sun, with its harvest-days warmth which illuminates the seed-heads of cow parsley and meadowsweet. In the margins of the lane, the hedgerows hold the symbols of the coming autumn: the hard, small hawthorn berries turning to russet; the slack opulence of cranesbills, their leaves shrivelling to grey; the funereal white of bindweed offering an elegy for summer. At one field junction we see the first damsons, dusted blue and swollen with the rains of august. Long-tailed tits chatter like children on their return to school.

The birds bring a knowledge of autumn which we are slow to grasp; in the mornings and evening we hear skeins of geese adjusting to an autumn on the move. The house martins are still circling over the house in the evening, their febrile flight quickening now, agitated and uncertain. I wonder if the fledglings feel any sense of anticipation, whether they are daunted by the journey ahead of them. Last night we saw, amongst the evening swallows and martins, a single swift, its high shriek almost painful against the darkening sky. It may be the last one of the year.


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