The View from Here: when the words don’t come

I had accepted that for the moment I can’t write – nothing publishable at least.  It will pass.  But snippets, fragments, jottings coalesced without my noticing… into what I would be writing about if I could.

Earlier today I accepted that, for whatever reason, at the moment I can’t write.  I have the ideas but not the capacity to create anything from them.  I was explaining this in a reply to Margaret at From Pyrenees to Pennines.

Margaret, thankfully, is much more prolific and consistent than I am.  Among other posts on her blog, she provides a one-word stimulus every Tuesday here at Ragtag Daily Prompts.  She has provided three so far, each one chiming absolutely with things I want to capture.  Every week I want to respond – it just doesn’t happen.  And I was explaining this to Margaret in a comment on her latest post.  Until I realised that without thinking about it, I was writing what’s been eluding me these past weeks.

So I’ve snaffled that part of the reply and slipped it in here.  To Margaret it was a short, succinct reply – just phrases.  It’s grown since.  Sentences have appeared.  I must be careful not to start thinking too much or the entirety will shrivel up or be swept away.

Long or short – however it turns out – and with genuine thanks to Margaret for her inspiration: a snapshot of these recent months of late spring and early summer in a sleepy Cornish valley.

Serried

I am mourning the loss of serried ranks of swallows this summer.  It seems that swallow numbers are low throughout the country this year; I understand this is more to do with an unusual combination of weather conditions in Africa than with our long harsh winter and long late spring.  I miss them.  I miss their acrobatics and their chittering but mostly I miss their serried silhouettes on the telephone wires.

Photo by Victor Benard on Unsplash

Earlier this week we had one or two swallows flying about the back of the house.  They landed on the roof of the woodshed, opposite an open window as I happened to be standing there.  Their colours were dazzling: midnight blue; gleaming white; rich, russet chestnut.  A secret highlight it was that day, peeking at the swallows as they sat momentarily still beside the window.

Just last night a certain small cat would not come in when called.  When Bernie flashed the torch around, lighting up the dark corners where said small cat might be playing hide and seek in the shadows, he illuminated something else entirely.  A single small swallows’ nest, complete with disgruntled bird, now peering out from the nest into the torch beam.  A late nest, but there’s still time.  We are hoping…

Dappled

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I have been delighting in the diaphanous dappled light which brought an added dimension to the banks of wildflowers that were gloriously rioting in the early months of summer.  The road which climbs from the valley floor begins under open skies and winds its way under a canopy of trees which, by early June have laced their leafy branches to create a delicate filigree that grants the banks and hedgerows the shade they require to bring forth white ransom spheres and hazy drifts of purple-heather bluebells; creamy parasols of cow parsley and knotted strings of bright pink ragged robin and campion.  It was a good year for bluebells; the best we’ve had.

I found myself considering whether we have dappled light or dappled shade and does it matter either way.  I decided that it does matter; that there is a difference.  The difference is arbitrary, idiosyncratic: mine alone.  But there is a difference to how I viewed those flowers as they fluttered and frolicked and danced through the balmy, sunny days of May and June and into July.  The dappled light – or shade – was never still, even on the stillest of days.  And the theatre of the burgeoning banks was a sight to behold, often alive with dappled light and sometimes soothed by dappled shade.

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The light and the shade has until very recently continued its dance along the canopied road from the bottom of the valley.  An infinite kaleidoscope of sparkling pinpricks and softer pools played carelessly for weeks.  But the closing acts of this prolonged performance dally on a different stage.  Lights linger on sharp stalks, deadened and desiccated as they await their turn for the banks to be cut.   This sight is new to me because normally as July wanes the banks are still lush and green.  Unwieldy growth spills over into the lanes and billows, bedraggled and jumbled, in a tangle of stalk and leaf.  Visibility is minimised and the space between the already close opposing banks is narrowed further to make driving even more hazardous than usual.

This year that growth is curtailed ahead of the blades.  Green is gone, replaced with brown and bronze and burnished sepia.  Even under the filigreed canopy, which surely shielded these banks from the harshest glare of the sun, soft and sagging overspills of jaded behemoths have been expelled and in their place empty spaces stretch to reveal dry baked earth.  Desiccated stalks require less space than aqueous growth.  Until the rain returns the banks will remain unclad and barren.  Until the rains return.

Clouds

… and now, as the sun pales for the moment here at least,  I have found myself cloud-watching.  We are unused to extended days – let alone weeks – of open cerulean skies.  Perhaps clouds have become a novelty for me?  Certainly I am very aware of them.  We were visited for a time by fluffy, cotton wool clouds skittering across the blue.  By early evening they had quietened, and massed along the horizon, gaining solidity and changing in colour from snowy white to pewter grey.  The next evening the pewter piled higher still along the skyline, and grumbled into a stalwart bank of gunmetal shot through with last hurrahs of silver bolts, before finally settling into brooding shades of sombre violet-grey.

Today the sky is leaden and fully clothed in cloud.  There will be no sun today to twinkle its way through the canopy and permit the dancing dapples to warm the tired banks along the road out of the valley.  Today is quiet.  Today is what I have euphemistically called in the past a no-weather day.  It’s very refreshing.  The sun will return in good time as will the rain.  The banks will be shorn, we will wend our way through the second half of summer.  And hopefully – hopefully – our precious pair of swallows will brood and raise their chicks, who will fledge and fly to faraway climes and return to us next year, when we’ll be saying to each other: ‘do you remember the summer of 2018?’

The view from here, even when words don’t come easily, is always filled with poetry.

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42 thoughts on “The View from Here: when the words don’t come”

  1. Absolutely beautiful and beguiling. I felt like I was immersed in a Thomas Hardy novel, or the like, so vivid were your words. Certainly, the wait was worth it, to be able to read this and feel a piece of home. Thank you!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Just lovely. Amazingly the weather here in Scotland has been hot and dry for weeks now. We’ve had a couple of greyish days, I had never thought I would be glad to see a grey sky – but it’s such a rest from the glare of the sun, not that I’m complaining!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Powerful as ever, no matter where you pick your prompts from. Choking among concrete slabs and faux wood, your words are serried swallows, dappled light and dappled shade to the soul. Oh, I do have the clouds for a change—they are making me sleep hours longer than usual.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for your lovely words, Uma. I think you understand well the challenge of being stymied at times; of wanting to record in words that which hasn’t necessarily been experienced as language. Will clouds mean rains arriving for you? The monsoon season must be imminent?

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely post and photos Sandra. The hints of anxiety make the beauty all the more precious. It reminds me that counting blessings is indeed good advice. Also wishing brood-raising success to the swallows.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Carol. You’re right, anxiety is never far away when I press ‘publish’ but sometimes it’s closer than others times. And sometimes it just says ‘No’ – usually for good reason 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Whatever you thought you’d lost was found, with the help of Margaret’s prompts! It has been an odd, unsettling summer in so many ways but, still, it has a special loveliness you describe so well.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks, Kerry. It has surprised me how much better I feel having rediscovered whatever I’d lost 🙂 And you’re right – this has been an usual summer in many ways – and in many parts of the world. Unsettling is a good way to describe these months 🙂

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  6. How lovely is this post? The words were so lyrical I could hear bees buzzing. You may have a temporary block while attempting to find the perfect word, but I sigh because I hadn’t even heard some of these wonderful words. Serried, snaffled sent me running for my dictionary. Thank you for posting when you are having anxiety, some poetry falls out whether or not intended.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. I’m truly flattered that those three words I chose helped get your creative juices flowing. Lovely writing, complemented by equally evocative photos. I too am having some difficulty at the moment, and I think it’s because of our unsettled world. However, our writing group homework this week is an ‘opinion’ piece suitable for a newspaper article or similar. No problems there is finding a subject …. or two.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh Margaret, perhaps it will be an opportunity to get those grievances and frustrations out. I’m imagining a letter in The Times now!

      (I’m trying to guess what your next word will be. I’m drawing nothing but blanks so far.)

      Liked by 1 person

        1. Ooooh London…. I’ll look forward to them. As for that letter – I’ll leave you to pen that. I shall be far too busy trying to get my thoughts on Poisonwood into some semblance of order 😁

          Liked by 1 person

  8. How beautiful this post is Sandra. I have enjoyed re-reading it over and again. Life is a series of cycles, isn’t it. Sometimes we are in the zone, on a roll. Other times are the opposite. I think one of the most valuable things we can tell ourselves is ‘this too shall pass’. During the good times it is a reminder to enjoy the moment; in the bad, a consolation that life won’t always be the same.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. The words may not have come easily Sandra, but they came beautifully and were definitely worth the pain of birthing them! I understand the frustration when they won’t come, but I try to see those times as fallow periods when there is something brewing beneath the surface, something wonderful like this.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you, Andrea; that’s a positive way of looking at the dry spots. And it was a period of learning opportunities. It’s one thing to not have the ideas or inspiration, another to have both but lack the capacity to turn them into something worthwhile. And yet, once the dam was broken, to realise that everything was there, just waiting to pour out. Creativity is endlessly fascinating: the process every bit as much as the outcome 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Thanks for finding me and following. I can see from your posts that we share a common love and sensitivity towards the natural world. I loved your focus on swallows in this piece, who I place an equal amount of hope in each year. It’s sad to see a drop in numbers this year, but this makes it all the more cathartic to find them – glad you got your nest!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. And thank you for following me back! I’ve spent some time with my sister in recent days; she lives in the Scottish Highlands and tells me that they have their usual proliferation of swallows – I was so pleased. (I’ll be spending time on your site soon hopefully – family crisis has had to take precedence this week but thankfully it seems to to be settling down steadily now 🙂 )

      Liked by 1 person

  11. Oh, but you can write, Sandra! And I hope you will keep on writing, even if there are pauses and stutters and silent spells along the way. Inspiration will come, passion and urge to write will come in gusts. It’s very seldom a constant (though I wish it were!)

    Liked by 1 person

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