Hanging out the washing in the morning there’s a definite freshness to the air that wasn’t there a week or so ago. On a walk in the hills above our house this weekend we spotted an enormous painted lady butterfly contentedly sunning itself in a meadow, surrounded by a noisy crowd of clattering crickets, but summer is passing. Down a deep holloway, along which drovers used to bring their cattle to market in the city, we found scattered hazelnut husks. The squirrels obviously think autumn is on its way. Sloes hung heavy in the hedgerows, ripe for the picking. Another day Finch pointed to the sky and yabbered excitedly. Swifts tumbled and turned between the telegraph wires, squeaking away to each other. They were probably getting ready to leave, their annual migration back to Africa beginning in late July and August. Seeing them reminded me of the chapter in The Wind in the Willows where Ratty wrestles with the migratory urge. In response to his questioning a swift says,
“First, we feel it stirring within us, a sweet unrest; then back come the recollections one by one, like homing pigeons. They flutter through our dreams at night, they fly with us in our wheelings and circlings by day. We hunger to inquire of each other, to compare notes and assure ourselves that it was all really true, as one by one the scents and sounds and names of long-forgotten places come gradually back and beckon us.”
But it is Mole who lights my imagination as he waxes lyrical about the “reddening apples…the browning nuts, of jams and preserves and the distilling of cordials” and the “hearty joys” of “midwinter”. For me, summer loses half its joy if there hasn’t been the seasonal variation of autumn, winter and spring in between.