We have had four full days of summer sunshine. Blistering, brilliant sunshine that fizzes, and fills the air with crackling energy and luminous promise. When the day is brimming with such self-belief it is impossible to imagine that it will ever go away. Logically, I know that it will, but in my heart it has been here – and will remain here – forever.
The effervescence of a scorching summer’s day is an exercise in presence. I am held in it, suspended in the moment. The warmth is an intoxicating bath; the breeze a sensuous balm. Sultriness demands inactivity and whispers of hedonic lethargy. To proceed with a normal day’s activities when I don’t have to do so, seems wasteful and disrespectful. Such glorious days of summer are rare beasts in England: they demand acknowledgement and celebration.
Yesterday I soaked up the sunshine, absorbing the vibrant energy, drinking in the clarity of the light and the contrasts in light and shade. The view from here was luxuriant and effusive: a lush, thick canopy of green against an endless cerulean sky.
This morning all is change. The sky is grey and glowering; the light is tired and brooding; the wind abrasive and threatening. There is no sign of what was before: high summer has faded overnight into presentiments of autumn. And yes, as I sit here writing, the rain begins – and batters against the windows. The crows awaken and fly – announcing the raindrops with triumphant cries. Crows are not birds of summer: their moments lie in the transitions between weather troughs, and in the dark, grey hours of winterlight.
The sunshine will return – by the end of this afternoon if predictions are to be believed. But for now I absorb the smell of rain through the window and the soughing in the leaves and the shivers that brush my arm.
The warmth of the sun brings lazy-cat indolence. “Stay and bask,” it purrs. “Stay still and linger in this golden day.”
The sharp coolness of a summer-grey shower brings drafts and shivers. “Get up!” it growls. “Move sharply now and stoke your own fires.”
I have the golden energy of those fleeting summer hours bottled in my heart but it will not burn for long. Memory is fickle. Soon it will be simply the greyness that comes to mind and it will be as if the golden days had never been.
I ask myself – why am I writing this? Why, as the rain patters and the crows caw harshly? What am I feeling that requires me to capture my thoughts on this dour grey morning sandwiched between slices of sunshine – rather than linger on the idyllic gold and green smorgasbord of sunshine-filled days?
The answer comes, surefooted. I am at heart a creature of the grey: it is here that my soul resides and from here that my energy rises. I am drawn always to brooding northern climes; balmy southern skies are but a passing pleasure. I can reach in and touch my soul on a grey day; in the sunshine I can dance on the surface but the feeling is fleeting. In the grey lies my foundation.
I love the fickle transience of a scorching day; the effervescence of the carnival; the fleeting flickers of flame and heat. But grey is smooth and solid; soothing, reassuring and eternal. Yes… it is here that my soul resides.
I came across this poem a few weeks ago. I’ve since learned that Edwin Morgan became Glasgow’s first poet laureate in 1999, and in 2004, Scotland’s first national poet: The Scots Makar.
I love this poem. It speaks to my soul. I shall sit, and take the stillness into me…
Grey by Edwin Morgan
What is the nub of such a plain grey day?
Does it have one? Does it have to have one?
If small is beautiful, is grey, is plain?
Or rather do we sense withdrawal, veiling,
a patch, a membrane, an eyelid hating light?
Does weather have some old remit to mock
the love of movement, colour, contrast –
primitives, all of us, that wilt and die
without some gorgeous dance or drizzle-dazzle.
Sit still, and take the stillness into you.
Think, if you will, about the absences –
sun, moon, stars, rain, wind, fog and snow.
Think nothing then, sweep them all away.
Look at the grey sky, houses of lead,
roads neither dark nor light, cars
neither washed nor unwashed, people
there, and there, decent, featureless,
what an ordinariness of business
the world can show, as if some level lever
had kept down art and fear and difference and love
this while, this moment, this day
so grey, so plain, so pleasing in its way!
Let’s leave the window, and write.
No need to wait for a fine blue
to break through. We must live, make do.