Friday, August 01, 2014

Heavy with Summer

The past few weeks have been heavy with summer. There has been no rain in the middle and south of England except for a few isolated thunderstorms; the rain proper has skirmished along both coasts but inland we are very dry. The air is heavy with humidity, but that hasn't been enough to ease the stress of the plants in people's gardens or the orchards of Devon, laden with fruit, where I arrived yesterday.

The train was packed with holiday makers headed mostly for Cornwall. All along the track the fields on either side had been hayed, and the enormous rolls were scattered about the fields like glacial erratics. The air was saturated with the fragrance of it, and with the scent of the wheat harvest.

In one field which you can see from my friend's upper pasture, the wheat was grown for thatch. Wheat thatch is typical for Devon, and it's a special kind of wheat that has to be harvested in a special kind of way. Part of the field was gathered into old-fashioned stooks; the rest of the straw lay in braided rows like the twist used to make a corn dolly.

All these events, along with a real chill on the wind and cooler nights, and now clouds threatening a prolonged wet spell have farmers looking over their shoulders as they scramble to get the rest of the harvest in. The spring and summer seasons pass so quickly this far north; sometimes we have a lingering golden September, but by October we are already thinking of wood fires and warm tights under fleece-lined trousers, as the rain pounds against the windows.

The willow-herb—what in America is called fireweed—is in full bloom; in Alaska we used to say that when the fireweed blooms hit the top of the stalk, winter was only six weeks away.

We're not quite as far north as Juneau, and we have the Gulf Stream, which Juneau doesn't, so we may have a few weeks' more grace. But all the signs—and a raven calling outside as I write—are warning us to make ready for what is to come.


The publication dates for my new book, Silence: A User's Guide have now been set: in the UK the book will be released by DLT on October 29. In the USA the book will be released by Cascade (Wipf and Stock) on October 1.


Blogger Ian Duncan said...

Thank you for that account of the season's being about to change.op

8:40 pm, August 01, 2014  

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