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.