June and the lightness of being

Almost half way through the year and days are long. Away to bed in light, to rise in light. It has come upon me suddenly, not without warning or expectation, for I have known for ages that our days were stretching out. I can’t, however, pinpoint when I realised that my room was still backlit by a bright mountain view through the window after the late night news!

This year, although our days are long they have been cold, blustery, and wet with wicked downpours that batter and flood. Where is the glowing, somnambulant warmth of last year’s approach to Solstice? Where is the sun-warmed, scented, juicy, pulsating growth of green leaf and painted petal? We are still lighting fires and wearing layers here.

Yet, incredible though it seems, and in spite of the cold, there is a lightness of being, a skip in the step, a smile on the lips. For wildlife has responded to lengthening days with considerable gladness; birdsong is exultant and cheering, plant colours are vibrant and potent, creature business in hedgerow, wood and field is determined. It can be seen and felt and heard, everywhere. How this happens must surely be one of the miracles of life; in the wild, plants, insects and animals are busy.

Bright, mediterranean-yellow poppy adds vivid colour in the field margins

Bright, mediterranean-yellow poppy adds vivid colour in the field margins

While the song thrush-heralded dawn chorus begins about 3am and ‘last post’ outpourings dwindle about 11pm, activity  by feather and fur, carapace and wing, is extended; no bedtime routine for them. How does this happen? With such exultation and stimulation the deeply delving radiation charges atoms, molecules, genes and cells; how clamorous this compelling response to light; how enigmatic the super-natural call to action!

Night fliers, though, must concentrate hearts, minds and efforts as darkness shrinks and constricts. For them a different way; their working hours shrink and dissipate so that the hunting, feeding and nurturing of blackness must eventually be undertaken in grey, wraith-like, glimmering crepuscular airs.

Moonrise and evening light paint the hills in wraith-pale purple

Moonrise and evening light paint the hills in wraith-pale purple

And when the full moon rises there is no darkness, another world emerges then, one of myth and fantasy, when fairies dance, bog sprites gyre and phantoms caper! And over, through and about these illusory revenants, insects flit and flutter and bats fly, scooping, scouring and swooping as they hunt. On the river banks deer ignore these flights of fancy and leathered wings, and move carefully through mist and leaf: breath snorting, tails flicking and bright eyes seeking. All is drained of colour, though colour is there; moonlight steeps the landscape, the living and non-living, in metallic magic: mercury, lithium, platinum, pewter, steel, tin and chromium.

The simmer dim is upon us; misty greyness swirls around mountain, wood and croft ground, along the river and into the garden

The simmer dim is upon us; misty greyness swirls around mountain, wood and croft ground, along the river and into the garden

It is a myopic time, this blurry, indistinct trans-space, this ‘simmer dim’. But in a few short hours, a pale yellow creaminess becomes apparent, as if the metalled world is tarnishing, and we know that colours, and creatures of the light, are wakening.

And, there he is, in full throated joy, our song thrush; his voice shooing away phantasms, dispersing mists and calling the whole world to voice. Our deer, raise their heads, and turn back to the hills. I, blinking, miss them go. And so the day dawns fully. Light penetrates my retinas, the call to action is received in my brain, later, so much later, than all the wild. I’m hopeful of warmth today and for the real headiness of June and the many hours of brightness.

At last, after weeks of cold and with buds 'summer-ready', our hawthorn has begun to blossom; and the scent is heavenly!

At last, after weeks of cold and with buds ‘summer-ready’, our hawthorn has begun to blossom; and the scent is heavenly!

And after all the cold winds and heavy rain, at last, the hawthorn has begun to flower and the real scent of late spring and early summer, the heavenly scent I so loved in my childhood is here at last!

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About Annie O'G Worsley

I'm a mum of four, gran, writer, crofter & Professor of 'Environmental Change'. I now live on a small farm (known as a croft) by the sea in a place surrounded by the ‘Great Wilderness’ mountains of the Scottish NW Highlands. I was a full-time academic, a geographer, but I decided to go feral and follow my dream of living a smaller, simpler, wilder life. I have always loved wild places. As a child I was inspired by tales of Trader Horn (my great-great-great uncle Alfred Aloysius Smith) told to me by my mother. Trader Horn spent his life wandering, mostly in Africa. I too, love stravaiging (Gaelic for wandering) and spent time in the Highlands of Papua New Guinea as a young researcher, living with tribes there. Although I spent years researching and teaching university students about environments, processes and habitats, I am discovering much, much more exploring the wilds around me. In moving away from scientific writing, I have rediscovered my wilder self and have a much deeper, truer understanding of nature than I ever had before. My work is published by Elliott & Thompson in a series of anthologies called 'Seasons' and I am currently writing a book about this extraordinary place. I continue to write academic papers with my research colleagues but I am developing new skills including landscape photography and painting. And of course, I still love to wander.
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