The blackberries by the lake have been readied and turned dark by the sun. I work steadily through the afternoon, dropping them into a pail by my feet, working my way through the end of summer stillness as I meander along the bramble banks. But no matter how good the haul, or how rewarding the gathering of wild, abundant fruit, there is always a finer berry poised a little beyond my reach. It hangs in the sunlight like a dark and forbidden charm, protected by a bower of thorned stems. I tip my shoulders forward and snake an arm as carefully as I can through the lattice-maze of canes.
The berry is close, so close, merely a touch away. I lean a little more. Clasping the bramble I lose my balance and my arm falls further into the thicket. The thorns rake across my skin as I instinctively retrieve my arm, bringing blood nearly the colour of my stained hands to the surface. And then I drop the berry. It slips hopelessly from my fingers to bounce from cane to cane until it settles even further beyond reach than it was, where it will stay until another passing creature makes use of it.
I stand on the open path and smear the blood off on my shirt. I swear a little as well. But a moment or two later I edge into the next tangle of brambles and resume my steady labour. It’s not that the rasping along my arm doesn’t hurt, for it does, the sting as sharp as broken glass, but that the day is too forgiving to walk away. These September days are a salve, the untold sum of summer’s design, when the fevered season quietens into a serene and consoling interlude. The vaulted blue sky arches clear above the trees where silver leaves occasionally stir. The lake water mirrors the hours, deepens them with a luminous glow borrowed straight from the emblazoned reeds that circle the shore. There is a sense of equilibrium achieved, as though the ever-swinging seasons have arrived at a momentary truce.
October will soon brood over wind and rain, hunch down from the midnight frosts and gathering crows and then close up with the loss of leaves. But the September sun that precedes it is a rare relation, close and confiding, but too shy to smother you with affection. Only this month profers such intimate detachment. There is no incentive to speed, or even slow, for the month seems to articulate its own measured efforts. I merely follow in its footfalls.
Small migrating warblers shimmy up the willows where I work. They’re feeding up for their long, and sometimes last, African flights. When I next see them it will be spring. The seeds of rushes and reeds float past, carried off by a breeze to begin somewhere anew. Finished flowers are coloured by a cloud of blue butterflies that part and reassemble like grasses while I walk. The stillness of the settled and empty shore transfixes me; any movement is minor, any sound little more than a whisper. There is something inescapably reflective about these days, both in the quality of their light and the mindfulness they encourage. The hours are as long as we need them to be, the barely circling spokes of a still and refulgent dominion. When finally the afternoon fades, I walk away carrying a pail of summer sun.
18 thoughts on “September Sun”
Lovely, Julian. I’ve been hunkered over the PC for weeks, barely leaving the flat and, most days, the late summer sun has been softening the encroaching morning chill. But I’m too driven by work at the moment to go outside and enjoy it. I know I should. Anyway, what I wanted to say was thanks for providing me with some September sun.
The urge to stretch that bit further for what’s just out of reach is something most of us would relate to, I feel. In many ways it’s a part of our condition, not necessarily a bad thing – even if you do occasionaly shred your forearms in the process.
Thanks, Pete…and pleased that something of the sun reached as far as you! Blimey, weeks indoors at a computer must be difficult for you. Is it the South Downs guide you’re working on right now? Likewise I had plenty of things to catch up with this week (ironically, writing a blog post about being outdoors was one of them) and sat at the desk throughout much of the day, but when the sun and wind mingled in the willows yesterday I couldn’t ignore it any longer. It might have been only half an hour sitting in the garden listening to the bees drone about the fading flowers, but it felt like much longer. Still, October will soon be here for both of us – and that’s another month of wonderful and moody surprise. Hope you’ll have time to be out and about!!
lots of love,
How do you do it, Julian? Even something as trite as reaching for wild berries becomes poetry in motion when you describe it! I am certifiably addicted to this blog! And the pictures! A couple of weeks back I tried chasing after some butterflies to take some pictures. I grew tired after 20 minutes, and I only succeeded in taking shots of one butterfly. You get two in one picture! It’s not fair LOL!
Thanks kindly, Rex! Always a pleasure to hear from you and your compliments are much appreciated. As you’ve probably already discovered I’m a pretty infrequent blog poster. And I’m trying to work out if that is a good or bad thing for your addiction! Blogs Anonymous might be a helpful group! More seriously, I’m delighted that you’re enjoying the blog this much.
Regarding the photos: you should see the many, many butterfly images that I’ve taken that don’t work at all! For quite a long time I tried chasing them as well, but began realising that that way wouldn’t work for me. Something in the landscape settled me down until I moved much more slowly than I used to when out walking. And suddenly I found that I was able to get closer to the butterflies and other creatures by almost not moving at all. Unfortunately, it means that going for a walk with me these days can sometimes mean not going very far indeed! Keep at the butterflies though, Rex; I sure you’ll soon find a way to get close. And I’m looking forward to seeing the results when you do!
This is the most beautiful Ode to September that I’ve ever had the pleasure of reading. Phrases like “…working my way through the end of summer stillness..”, “…as though the ever-swinging seasons have arrived at a momentary truce…” and “…the September sun that precedes it is a rare relation, close and confiding, but too shy to smother you with affection…” are pure poetry.
You are a poet, my friend and I’m so glad to have found you!
Wonderful to hear from you, Cindy. And many thanks for your humbling words. Having readers like yourself, who are also terrific writers and photographers themselves, lends a depth to the work that I truly appreciate. Finding your way here meant that I had the opportunity to discover your own work, and I’m very grateful for that. Thanks again…
Ahh, I’m so glad you mentioned the quality of the light at this time of year. I completely agree. There are days that feel like perpetual sunrise. I especially love when dark, heavy clouds float low in the sky and the sun breaks through in shafts of bold light. The contrast is enough that I pull my car over and soak it up like a lizard on a rock. Whether it’s because you’re a photographer, a naturalist, or whatever, learning to truly see light is a real blessing.
The other morning I was driving at sunrise and the light hit the mountains with this pink glow, but only here and there, moving and shifting as the sun rose behind scattered clouds. It’s like a dream, really.
Just like your writing… hmmm, I see the connection!
I love the idea of days at this time of year being like a “perpetual sunrise.” Beautifully stated and, as always, your thoughtful comments add to the post. Light is a great blessing, but it can easily pass us by. I know that feeling of a barn or bare mountain ridge or stand of dusty flowers at the edge of a road suddenly being transformed by a break in the clouds, by a creak of light that sneaks in and does something miraculous to a place or thing before us. Everything in that singular moment changes, and then the clouds close back up again and we continue on our way. The ability to see light, as you say – I’ll raise a toast to that!! Thanks for reading and happy roamings!
Beautiful prose and even more beautiful poetry in this post. I feel the content of it is incredibly well connected with the way you exprese it. In fact, they can´t be separated. They´re one thing only.
The rythm of the images and the vivid description show your harmony with that world around you. Where most of us would have just seen berries, you could reflect on time, the cicle of seasons, the whole natural environment and all the magic it encompasses.
That summer sun you carried away on your way back is a fantastic gift. Thank you for sharing it with us.
Great to hear from you, Pablo, and many thanks for the kind words. I like the idea you raise with the words, “all the magic it encompasses” in relation to the natural world, the cycle of the seasons and the passing of time. I think you’re precisely right: that the magic or wonder is contained within the world we inhabit and it’s up to us to stretch our imaginations and sense of awareness to partake of it as fully as possible. Without that our experience of the world would be much diminished. That gift of the summer sun is there, just waiting! Many thanks for taking the time to read…
So much has already been posted about the beauty and rhythm of your prose. I love to read your work.It is a feast for the mind. I am not exagerrating.
Here in Massachusetts the leaves are splashed with their explosive colors and the autumn rains are on their way! There is a certain beauty in fall that cannot be captured any other time of year. The sight of thick black clouds rolling over a mountain painted orange by the retiring oaks is something which cannot be undone from the memory ever!
I look forward to the next post from Greece!
JE, thanks so very much for the compliments. Your own image of a “mountain painted orange by the retiring oaks” conjured for me immediately how I imagine Massachusetts to look in the fall. There is something particular about this season that lingers in the memory forever. I can still picture certain autumn days growing up in Ontario, the scent of the falling leaves and that sweet melancholy that comes with it. Your part of the world is somewhere I’d very much like to explore one of these days. I have a feeling it would appeal to me on a number of levels. In case you happen to be interested, I have a short piece of writing being published next month in a wonderful journal based in Massachusetts, called Wild Apples. http://www.wildapples.org
Great to hear from you, JE, and wishing you a good autumn in your neck of the woods.
Even though you’re in Greece, it feels as though you could be speaking of the changing of the seasons here in Canada. Thanks for crafting another beautiful post – always a pleasure to read, and ponder.
Thanks for stopping by, Cait, and I’m delighted that you enjoyed the post. I remember those Canadian seasons quite vividly, and perhaps some essence of them still informs the writing. In fact I’m fascinated by how the past makes itself felt in the present, so who knows of what moment any of us actually write about! The colours of Ontario must be nearly in full bloom. Enjoy, and many thanks for the kind words…
Yet another inspired post, Julian. You write so very beautifully. I wish I could express (as you do) the joy I feel when I see things of natural beauty. You have a real gift. I really do enjoy reading your words. Thank you for sharing them with us!
Thanks very much, Karoline! I appreciate the kind words, and there was something serendipitous about your comment as you wrote it at the same time that I was having a look at your wonderful blog again, and realising that I had a number of interesting recent posts to catch up with. I’ll stop by later today to have a closer read.
Delighted that you enjoy the writing; the natural world is a pretty inspiring place to work with. Thanks again,
This was such a pleasure to read, Julian! You do have a very lyrical and captivating way with words. Wish I could have tasted one of those blackberries… Perfect little treats, and worth all the effort and every scratch to obtain them! September can seem like a pause sometimes, like you say, with a sense of equilibrium. And the September glow gave the pictures a gentle, soft feeling. The butterflies are beautiful! I hope your October isn’t being too windy and rainy. We’re still waiting for the fall colors to peak down here on the Connecticut coastline.
Great to hear from you, Barbara, and I’m so pleased that you liked the post. Thanks for your generous words…
In fact, October has been the absolute opposite of September, buckets of cold rain and glowering skies. But I love this weather as well; the moody atmosphere is a world unto itself. We’ve had a friend visiting so it just made for shorter walks in the mountains and scurrying back before the deluge, which meant longer to sit by the fire with a drink and talking. Which is a kind of walk as well! As one of my favourite John Muir quotes goes: “I only went out for a walk, and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.”
Hope all is well with you, Barbara; many thanks for stopping by.