Sunday, 1 June 2014

Hesitating summer and a tribute to the woman in white

Summer’s been teasing us this year. It came early in England – or was that a glorious Spring? At any rate, the flowers came out and the trees covered themselves in leaves.

But then it slipped away again, as though it had a better place to be, and left us glum and grey and rain-sodden. Why, we were even cold. We began to wonder whether it had really been there at all, and I had to go back and see the leaves still covering the trees to convince myself that it had.

One day we even had summer to the left,
spring to the right
Now it seems to be sneaking back again. A patch of sun here, a little heat there. And the plants, smarter than we are, have been reacting, growing like weeds (especially the weeds, that poor Danielle has to spend so much time pulling out): they know that the rain was good, though we complained about it, and that sun is coming behind it to make things better still.

But summer hasn’t yet wholly made up its mind to stay with us. The grey keeps coming back, even the occasional pattering of rain. It’s like a child forced reluctantly to visit an aged relative: he’s there, but not really in the company, and can’t wait to get away again.

So it’s comforting to know that it was ever thus, there’s nothing new in this sense that we’re perhaps being cheated by a summer that hasn’t entirely decided to join us. There’s nothing new, either, in the knowledge that in time it will show up and we just need the patience to give it the time it needs.

No one I know sang the seasons better than the woman in white, the glorious Emily Dickinson, back there in Massachusetts the century before last. And, to celebrate the 1st of June and a wonderful poet, here’s how she described this reluctant indecision on the part of summer.

These are the days when birds come back, 

A very few, a bird or two, 
To take a backward look.

These are the days when skies put on 

The old, old sophistries of June,— 
A blue and gold mistake.

Oh, fraud that cannot cheat the bee, 

Almost thy plausibility 
Induces my belief,

Till ranks of seeds their witness bear, 

And softly through the altered air 
Hurries a timed leaf!

Oh, sacrament of summer days, 

Oh, last communion in the haze, 
Permit a child to join,

Thy sacred emblems to partake, 

Thy consecrated bread to break, 
Taste thine immortal wine!

Enjoy the summer! It’s on the way.

(My apologies, naturally, to anyone in the Southern Hemisphere)

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