August begins and ends with a public holiday. It’s a month of dreams and disappointments.
August smells of hot fat and seaweed. It tastes of vanilla, woodsmoke and cheese sandwiches. August drips ice-cream, sits in traffic jams, laughs loudly. August plays the neon muzak in the amusement arcade, clamours like gulls, patters rain on the caravan roof. August is a pint of cider, a can of lager, a glass of pink fizz. August is Pac-a-macs and crushed crisps and village fetes and bunting and sandcastles and sun-hats and fleecies and the first blackberry and a sudden, mad dash into the sea.
grains of sand waves roll endlessly harvest gathered
The solstices suit me. I’m not balanced enough for the equinoxes – I’m drawn to long days, evenings stretching out like shadows, the scent of roses, pipistrelles flittering overhead, the rooks chattering comfortably. I love the winter solstice, too, – the early darkness, the nights of frosts and stars, the nights when the moon hurtles through cloudscapes, the call of owls.
I like coming at sunrise from the wrong direction.
I like staking a claim on night.
On this solstice day, the everything is bursting with life. June has brought roses and honeysuckle, the trees are leaf-heavy, the fields are re-growing after their first mowing, the hedgerows are frothing with elderflowers and Queen Anne’s lace, with dog roses and wild campion. It’s our moment to dance at the top of the year.
The tree in the top corner is always the first to blossom. Its blossoms are the palest of all – the faintest wash of pink. It’s badly placed, battling with alder and birch to find light. Everything around it is brown. Buds are starting to swell, but the other trees are holding back, contemplating things. There may yet be frost, the nights are cold, we are still teetering on the edge of spring. While they hesitate, the wild cherry leaps in, joyfully, its blossoms a valiant, defiant banner of hope.
I have always liked those old lecturns made in the shape of eagles. I like the idea that words will fly into the distance, that they will soar above us, that they have their own power. Give words wings, let them fly.
rising on sunlight
seeing the earth spread below
spotting a mouse dart
The first sunrise of 2021 was a smear of raspberry pink over a monochrome world that crunched under foot. We discovered a new walk, and that we have made some new friends over the last year. At the top of the hill we looked back over a landscape that we know well, made new and different by a change in perspective. I think that perspective will be the only thing that changes over the next few weeks. Our plans are blown around like so many brown leaves. We’re entering a new lockdown. It’s like we’re not moving, we’re just bobbing up and down, waiting to set sail.
In the week before Christmas I leave the shopping malls behind and go instead to a lonely clifftop track where ancient shells lie sun bleached on an old Aboriginal midden. Wandering along the sandy trails I hear young men hollering to each other. Walking closer to the cliffs I see they have scrambled down and are exploring the rock pools that have been exposed by the retreating tide.
I leave them to it and walk on to the midden. Not wanting to disturb the fragile remains I skirt around them and sit on a rock at the edge. It is a hot day and the light is bright. The boys have quietened down and the bush around me slumbers in the early afternoon heat. Sitting there I have a sense that people have interacted with the place for thousands of years. The scattered shells are evidence of meals eaten long ago when human life went at a slower pace – a time when people moved in harmony with the world around them. The frantic buzz of the consumer fest of Christmas fades from my mind and I enter a trance-like state where time is measured in breaths rather than purchases. It seems to me that I can hear a faint refrain – the gentle voice of women who had once sat here tending cooking fires while young boys clambered around the rocks collecting shell fish for a meal.
Held in warmth,
the past and present merging,
-heart of Gaia
This beautiful haibun comes from Suzanne Miller. She is an artist and writer living in south eastern Australia, and I find her work so evocative of the Australian landscape. She has an Honours Degree in Visual Art and a Masters in Creative Writing. These days she writes for her own pleasure and for the joy of sharing her work with others. You can read more of Suzanne’s work at her blog: https://mappinguncertainty.wordpress.com
During lockdown, the weather was beautiful. Long midsummer days of blue skies stretching out, full of walking and reading and lazy conversations. The nights were just as wonderful – clear skies sprinkled with stars, sagging under the weight of so many stars.
We decided to stay up late one night to watch a meteor shower. The aquariids, I think. We took the beach blanket out and lay on the lawn, snuggled in sleeping bags and Dryrobes. There was some wriggling, and some giggling, and a bit of complaining, before we all fell silent, and just watched the sky.
We didn’t see many meteors, it has to be said. But we did spend time outside, gazing up at the sky. The more we looked, the more stars we saw – star after star after star – the Milky Way a band of light arching over our house, reaching towards the horizon. We were very quiet.
so many stars
how could we count them?
we could only gaze.
A haibun for Kim at dVerse. Kim wants us to think about the last time we gazed at nature in awe.
My childhood Halloweens smelled of burnt turnip – much harder to carve a lantern from than pumpkins, but much spookier, too. They tasted of wet apples and toffee. My husband’s Halloweens were colcannon and barmbrack, and handfuls of nuts and raisins. My children had a bit of all that, over-laid with pumpkins and cheap sweets and tacky costumes.
My son was never bothered about Halloween. He doesn’t like dressing up and doesn’t like sweets. He was cajoled and coaxed along by his big sister (who knew he’d hand his booty over to her). The last costume she persuaded him into consisted of his usual clothes and a single black line drawn around his neck. “I’m the ghost of someone who had their head cut off”, he announced at every door we called at.
It’s just a short hike from the car, and then a scramble down the cliff path. It’s slippery, and overgrown – you have to clutch at branches to help you down, and you have to take it easy. There are the traces of old steps, and a place where someone’s set a rope to help you. Keep going. Be careful.
The bay itself faces due west, and curves like a hug. It’s a beach of rounded stones, mostly grey, some with quartz lines running through them. Today there are seals watching us curiously, sleek and shiny in the water. We stretch and breathe.
land creatures drawn to the blue water seal looks back
I had a lockdown birthday – like, what, a quarter of the population? More, now. I had a birthday of supermarket chocolates and flowers, of home-made cards and second-hand candles, of Zoomed-in love. It wasn’t the birthday I planned, but it was OK. It was more than OK. It was wonderful.