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.
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.
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…
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.
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.
… 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.