Sunday, August 12, 2012

Summer's slow decline

I sit in my garden with a cup of tea in the early morning, watching the clouds draw patterns across the sky, hinting of storms to come later in the day. I recognise that familiar easing from grace which comes with the end of summer; that smell in the morning air of dew and decay, of damp stone and flowers faded past their bloom. Even in mid-August, there are trees which carry a promise of autumn in their leaves, the tones of yellow and ochre which are only just hidden beneath summer's brief green; messengers of the coming change in the seasons. The birch tree is already shedding its tiny, delicate leaves. The broader, curved leaves on the cherry are mottled with the first scars of autumn, like a bruise showing beneath the skin.
In the morning sky, a single swallow turns and turns against the gathering clouds, testing his wings for the ache of leaving. The restlessness which precedes migration is everywhere; for days now, the swifts have been gathering in the high evening sky, following the last of the afternoon's insects up towards the clouds, feeding for a journey which their bodies know they must take.
As I step across the dampened grass, I look for signs of decay; not as a morbid pursuit, but as a reminder that all is in order, that the world turns as it should, and that summer is beginning its proper decline. There is no sense of sadness here: autumn for me is a time of plenty, of ripening apples and the kiss of chill air when I leave the house in the morning; a time to slow down from summer's frenzied out-there-ness, and to move inwards, to fires lit and rooms lighted in the evening cool.

As I walk in the garden, a single birch leaf falls onto my hair, as soft as the footfall of an insect. It seems like an annunciation; a promise that autumn will be kind, a final gift from the tree which gives me so much pleasure through the summertime, the way it bends and flexes through summer's storms, its promise of perpetual willowy youth. It seems so premature, to be giving in to autumn so soon, when the air is still warm and the evenings still hold a touch of sun.
The herbs beneath the kitchen window have run to flower; the flavour sapped from their leaves, their stems long and rangy. Bees are making the most of the warm air, making perhaps their last journey to the blooms. I watch their grazing with a tinge of sadness; a man in his garden, poised on the edge of middle age, following bees and looking forward to a time of plenty.

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