The final hours of July passed wet and cool, brooding and overcast. And welcomed. I applauded the dimming of the light; I turned inward and pondered the prescience of autumn. My heart has always belonged to autumn.
August is generally one of my least favourite months. The birds have ceased their joyful singing. The jubilance of summer is fading alongside the colours in hedgerows and the farmers’ fields. The enthusiasm wanes for nurturing the garden into growth and the desire builds to cut back, to tidy up, to restore order. August has become a month of impatience, of waiting for things to change. In August, the year feels tired and old.
But there is always renewal; there is always change. From one year to the next, one month to the next, one day to the next: there is always change. And this year I find my attitude towards August is changing.
I begin to see August as a time for rest: as a time for gathering in. As the farmer begins to gather in the harvest, I prepare to gather in my spirit. I call it back from open vistas and wide-roaming places: from fields and forests, skies and seas, moorland and motorways.
Soon the focus will once again be upon hearth and home. As the year transitions from summer to autumn so shall I, but this year with awareness and appreciation displacing impatience. I cease to regard August as a tiresome month in which the countryside and I are often worn and weary and the weather rarely lives up to expectations. I find myself considering August through a different lens. Late summer becomes another point at which the year turns but it is a quiet turning, hitherto unremarked in my personal canon of thoughts and observations by which I have traditionally marked time’s passing.
The opening of the calendar year is a time of hopes and beginnings and reckonings; Janus reminds us to look forward, to look back. The vernal equinox is a bursting forth of new life; a fanfare as light overtakes darkness. The summer solstice sees life and light at their fullest; nature is rioting.
A celebration of summer from Van Gogh
The autumnal equinox falls this year exactly on my birthday but the conjunction of the two has always elevated its personal significance as another opportunity to reflect, take stock, gather in what has been learned and experienced; send forth personal seeds and shoots of hope and quiet dreams; hunker down in readiness for winter. And the winter solstice has long been a prelude to Christmas; a celebration of home, hearth and what we have come to call hygge; a time for family and thankfulness.
I add to these long-established markers on my private calendar. I add this morning’s musings on this first day of August. Thoughts, facts, festivals, traditions, the personal and the universal crowd together and coalesce and I make sense of the clamour.
August 1st is Lammas Day or Lammastide: the halfway point between the summer solstice and the autumnal equinox. In the traditional Celtic calendar it is the first day of autumn; the first of the harvest celebrations. It marks the gathering in of the wheat. August… Autumn… Au… It is the symbol for gold from the Latin ‘aurum’ which means ‘shining dawn’. A golden gathering, a shining beginning. August reframed.
This morning August has opened with a return of the sunshine. It was a shining dawn. The fine weather is predicted to last a few days more, before the rain returns in time for an extended family visit. Perhaps it will become an early autumnal visit – hunkering down with board games and venturing out for rainy walks to the sea, rather than the visit we were hoping for, marked by summer days and picnics on the beach, evening BBQs and stargazing. No matter. Everything changes – including expectations and weather forecasts.