A Last Dance

These days are cast like a spell, stretched taut and seamless across two seasons. Spun from sunlight and warm winds, they’re days with bright promise still inside them, nested there like pearls. The high vaulting sky might be the sea, as if by leaping into it you could float clear across the blue. Sailing without winds or wing. The days linger like lovers, lost in their slow unfolding.

Swallows skim south over the garden, called back to a season that’s just starting on a far continent, with mountains, sea and desert still ahead. A breeze carries seeds to a new beginning, and animals gather the wild harvest. We’re at the edge of the turning world, a part of the spinning but not yet ready to move on while the lake and hillsides are aglow. When light floods the valley we’re swept up in its spill, like tumbleweed in a wind. There’s no way of knowing when these days will end, and I have no memory of them ever beginning. It’s as though they’ve been with us all along, ancient and immutable. Radiance that’s been summoned to stay.

I climb through a net of pale grasses where lizards scatter across stones. Butterflies huddle on the rim of fading flowers, their wings on the very cusp as well, cracked and rubbed thin by lives scalded with sun. A warm wind finds my skin. I settle back on the slope to hear sheep bells sifting through the valley, a sweet meandering path carved from air. The stones are hot against my back, like they’ve hoarded a whole season inside. I listen to windsong in the grasses, a chorus of whistling stems that echo like the notes of gone summers, those that lingered and glimmered when we were young. Summers unfurling like a prairie against the sky, vast and burnished and without any end we could imagine. Summers that flooded us to the bone.

Three hawks circle the tawny ridge, their sharp calls falling like water. I watch them climb one after the other on a ladder of air being drawn up by the sun. Spiralling higher and higher, they look like dark spots on the surface of our star until the sky finally empties again. There’s just the deep blue sea that umbrellas me, and the kind of silence you hear inside water. It’s a rare and intimate quiet, enclosing and still. The insect hymn has finished, put back on a shelf like a musical box. Crops are cut and curing in the fields, and the roads are dusty and bare until harvest. Even the leaves that will soon rattle and drop are still stitched to trees, hanging on in a glow of amber and gold to see this blaze to its end. It’s the last dance of summer, and it sways to a song of its own. Even the sky seems too small to hold all of this longing.

45 thoughts on “A Last Dance

  1. A chorus of whistling stems, an insect hymn: I’m here, swept up in this spill of words, Julian. And as usual, I’m so grateful for the place I’ve been taken to.

    Hope you’re well on your edge of the earth!

    1. Thank you, Emily. I’m sure you would love these last lingering days of warmth and delicious sun. And you’d find a great deal to turn the attention of your words to. as well. All is good on this edge, and lovely to hear from you!

      Cheers,
      Julian

  2. Your words are beautifully evocative, Julian. I can feel myself sitting on that hillside, warm stones against my back and I long for it. As much as I enjoy the crispness of October in Manitoba, I wouldn’t mind a little more time in the warmth of the last breaths of a Greek summer. Gorgeous work, as always.

    1. Thanks ever so much, Heather. Having been admiring (in early amazement!) your recent snow photos, I can imagine this scene seems a long, long way from you.Our snow will come as well, but for now it’s as though the entire lake basin is suspended in warm golden light. Delighted you liked this, and thanks for the kind words. Enjoy the crisp days!

      Cheers,
      Julian

    1. That’s a terrific description that I’ve never heard before, Diana! There are so many in our garden right now, it’s wonderful. And now you have a new photographic study for the day!

  3. Holy cats, those photos are wonderful Julian. And the words … the words …are … perfect.

    Snow in Greece. Somehow snow in Greece never registered on my radar.

    What a wonderful world !

    1. Thanks, Sybil, for the terrific comment! Snow indeed, and it can be quite a lot up here in the mountains. As it was last year when our pipes froze for a month and a half! Nothing like a bit of the elements to enhance that wonderful world….hope you’re well.

  4. I’m drawn to your hills with this feast for the senses as always with your writing, Julian. From now on, I will be watching hawks “climb one after the other on a ladder of air being drawn up by the sun” and leaning against rocks that are hoarding “a whole season inside”. The images you evoke with your writing are deeply satisfying; the photographic additions root the experience in your place where time can stand still for me. The reclined attitude of the view through the swallowtail is especially calming and somehow comforting.

    1. Thanks for such a lovely comment, Cindy. Hearing that these words and phrases have brought you nearer to this place gives me great joy. It’s a pleasure to be able to share, and I’m grateful for your thoughtful reading, as always.

      Best wishes,
      Julian

    1. Thank you, Chrysanthie. It really is a remarkable part of the world, and a place that I feel deeply grateful to have had the opportunity of living in. Delighted you liked the post, and thanks for the kind words.

      Best wishes,
      Julian

  5. I can see the change in the photographs – the clear, pale light that heralds autumn – the hint of summer’s gold that still simmers across the earth. Autumn is my passion, but I can still appreciate this profile of seasons flying across the sky: what they have created and what they promise.

    1. Thanks for these beautiful words that capture the seasons “flying across the sky.” Also a delight, Aubrey. Like you, autumn is my real passion, but in the midst of any season I can’t imagine any other. And so they unroll, one marvellous promise after another.

      Best wishes,

      Julian

  6. There’s not much to add to the comments above; you have captured the essence of that strange transition between summer and autumn; that feeling of decay and promise. Of course, you’re less far into that cycle than we are in the north of England (our swallows have long gone), but I’m struck by how similar the sensations are. Thanks again for your beautiful words.
    ian

    1. Thanks, Ian. Great to hear from you as I’ve been thoroughly enjoying reading your own work again recently. Always an evocative pleasure. The swallows are gone now, but there’s been just enough warmth in the days to swim in a very, very cold lake!

      Cheers,

      Julian

    1. Thanks ever so much, Anyes! Wonderful to find your comment and I’m thrilled that you discovered Notes from Near and Far. I have friends living in Vancouver as I grew up in Canada, so it’s a pleasure to be in touch on that side of the world. Thanks for taking the time to read, and looking forward to visiting your own site soon.

      Best wishes,

      Julian

  7. Julian, I’ve returned several times to re-read this stunning piece of writing, and to enjoy again your gorgeous photos… My head-space lately has been so limited, with so much to do and think about, I’ve been grabbing quiet times here and there to truly savour your words. Such is the poetic power of your writing in this piece that, even when I read it through the foggy-headed effects of a cold, the gorgeous imagery and the wonderful experience of ‘being there’ tumbled through the senses of my inner world and made me feel utterly suspended in the beauty and truth of those moments you describe. A superb tonic! Sorry to be so late in adding my response here – it’s been a bit of a struggle to order my thoughts and divide my time effectively lately, but I’ve been so enjoying all your latest posts. They are always a journey to somewhere beautiful and searching, and filled with discovery and deep thought. Thank you…

    Hope this finds you well.

    Best wishes, as always,

    Melanie

    1. Thanks kindly for these generous and spirited words of yours, Melanie. No need to be sorry for the response, as I’m so sorry it’s taken me this long to reply! I’ve been fully consumed with the copy edits for my book, which in itself is a fascinating process, but it’s meant that a few other things have slipped by me. And your comments mean a great deal to me, so my sincere apologies. Reading again your thoughts has brought a deep smile of joy and appreciation; I’m ever so pleased that this post has reached you in such a way.

      Hope you’re feeling better. As always, my gratitude,

      Julian

      1. Thanks so much for your lovely message, Julian… There’s absolutely no need to apologise… I guessed how busy you would be with your book.Time is always so elusive and spins through our fingers so fast; always so many threads to hold together. I always seem to be playing catch up with everything! Hope all is going well with copy edits etc (really exciting to even just type those words!) So looking forward to seeing your book in print!

        Melanie

        1. Cheers, Melanie! Just finished the copy edits the other day and it all went extremely well. Working with a keen-eyed editor is a marvellous experience in my opinion. (And I’m quite thrilled by saying the words “copy edits” as well, I have to confess!)

          Thanks for understanding,

          Julian

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