A Troubled Relationship

With you sweet Summer
I have a deeply troubled relationship.

Since I was a child
when you meant three months
away from school,
which I loved and missed
during the long hiatus,
and later as an adult
when you meant
long hot hours in the afternoon,
and the challenging blast
of your heat when leaving
the relieving artificial cool
of air conditioning at work,
and the thunderstorms
breaking as I ran from
bus stop to home safety,
never ave I been easy with you.

Then there was the horrible
dry year lived in Phoenix,
where like today
I had a migraine,
but that one lasted
the whole of my desert time,
parched, desiccating, light,
ah, the light way too much
for me almost as harsh
as the interminable heat.

Though now I can seek
respite in a shady garden
or a dense green wood,
the physical discomfort
is not diminished,
for I find your extremes
punishing and cruel,
for even in the night
when darkness descends
the temperatures and humidity
do not always follow.

I have a long way to go
to make my peace with you,
for though I know we need you,
were it not for what you alone offer
we would starve,
still I continue struggling,
after all the decades we have shared,
with the gifts you bring
in abundance of light and heat,
to fulfill the promises of Spring.

With you sweet Summer
I have a deeply troubled relationship.

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Apple Shedding Blossom

This another breezy day,
twigs twitching
on branches jittering
lifting lightly
as the air sings its enticing song,
flowers follow me
petals join the dance,
release your tender holding
so your fruit may form.

Petal snow the garden
covering delicate
pink tinging white
amid the final cowslips,
forget-me-nots and bluebells,
deepening shade enfolding all,
summer slowly emerging
in the longer sun.

Robins, blue tits,
blackbirds, magpies
swoop though the last
relinquishing blossom,
little wings beating
to their own unheard
internal rhythms,
vanishing and disappearing
in swift movements darting.

Summer,
now that May has had her day,
greens grow darker
working harder,
fruit setting,
light extending
bees alighting,
all the while hour by hour
life meets its challenge
and gifts to us,
all undeserving,
beauty, wonder and delight.

Maize Mothers

I have interacted with the maize field across the road ever since it was planted early in the summer. The field is quite large and the rows run parallel to the road. Apparently, some years ago they were planted vertically to the road and the cottage flooded. Thankfully, the change in planting direction was the remedy, but I digress.

For some time now I have been thinking it a field of Maize Maidens.
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However, in the last week or so it has been made clear to me that at this time it considers itself a field of Maize Mothers.
Maize Mothers 3Maize Mothers 2Maize Mothers 1Maize Mothers 4

And, thinking about it that re-framed designation makes a lot more sense.

Maize Mothers

We are the Maize Mothers,
our Maiden days have long past
in the heat and light of Summer.

At our beginnings we were
supple and able to bend in the breeze,
and our song sung with the wind
was soft and gentle for who listened.

We are the Maize Mothers,
our Maiden days have long past
in the heat and light of Summer.

Through the early searing heat
and later protracted torrential rains,
we stood together growing taller,
our stocks stiffening with age.

We are the Maize Mothers,
our Maiden days have long past
in the heat and light of Summer.

Awaiting the inevitable harvest,
our silks no longer free flowing blonde
emerge tangled brown from ears full to bursting,
our crop is ripening and strong.

We are the Maize Mothers,
our Maiden days have long past
in the heat and light of Summer.

Our songs are now dry
as we rustle in the Autumnal winds,
our crowns are thin and empty,
the work of our life nears ending.

We are the Maize Mothers,
our Maiden days have long past
in the heat and light of Summer.

We do not seek your sorrow or your pity,
we came to provide food for man and beast,
it is our burden and our gift,
we only ask your gratitude at each partaking.

We are the Maize Mothers,
our Maiden days have long past
in the heat and light of Summer.

Darkness in Falls Summer

When darkness falls in summer
it tumbles quickly
as the gloaming recedes,
fading into star sprinkled night
of a sudden between
one breath indrawn
and soon released.

The clouds glow
in a phosphorescent white,
too bright too pure,
clinging to the last shimmering
rays of sunlight as we move away
spinning silently and at speed
opposite the day.

When the sky is clear
the stars blink on,
a thousand million suns
ignited as disordered beacons,
insistent points of brightness
cutting through the black,
where once the illusioned blue sky
spanned wide beyond our reaching.

The night so short in some places
it is never truly dark,
and for several months
stars disappear from view,
the sun barely tickling the horizon
giving no respite from the light,
testing the ability of most to cope
longer than a brief few weeks,
for we are made for light and dark
for day and night
for one sun to shine then many.

The darkness falls quickly
at the height of summer
knowing by some unimaginable wisdom
it must be swift to beat the day
before the single light emerges
inexorably setting the east ablaze,
rousing us from sleep
stealing our dreaming time,
teasing us up to work and play and be
whilst giving in return
a shorter interval of rest less time
for secret assignations with the self.

What do the Trees feel?

Since the weekend there has been a lot of wind blowing over the high bit of Somerset where I live. It is the other side of being blessed with big sky. As I walked into a meeting in the village last evening I saw what the wind had done to the young leaves on the trees along the way I have to walk. As I walked I listened. I opened by senses and my soul and was rocked by what I felt, what I heard.

It was a mixture of sadness, grief and what I can best describe as stoic resignation. There was keening, but also the shrugging sigh. Clearly, from this I have learned that trees not only feel loss, but have their own ways to cope. This is my reflection.

How did you feel,
for I know that you did,
when the wild wind
tore through your branches,
sending young twigs with their leaves
to the gutter and pavement below?

No summer of ripening,
no autumn of splendor,
no food for the small ones,
no delight for the eye.

Key seeds unripened,
never reaching the stage
spinning you into the future
uncertain at best,
pale remnants strewn,
hope unfulfilled
as harsh winds
drove through your boughs.

No summer of ripening,
no autumn of splendor,
no food for the small ones,
no delight for the eye.

Indeed there are still leaves,
yet more twigs and other seeds remain,
indistinct in the green mass
remaining to deepen to shade,
but those at my feet now
discrete and distinguishable,
separated from the your holding
are most easily seen.

No summer of ripening,
no autumn of splendor,
no food for the small ones,
no delight for the eye.

Do they cry out when the wind
shears them off in the gale?
Do you hear them cry but turn
your energy from away
easing their journey below?
Do you feel their pain or only your own?
For now I know that you do
in a tree’s different way.

No summer of ripening,
no autumn of splendor,
no food for the small ones,
no delight for the eye.

Deep was the sadness,
raw was the grief,
resignation articulated,
felt in my soul wrenching my heart,
as you bent with the next gust,
one last time to your lost leaves,
though no bitter farewell,
paying homage to those departed
strewn at my feet.

No summer of ripening,
no autumn of splendor,
no food for the small ones,
no delight for the eye.

The Challenges of Heavy Summer

July and August are the hard part of summer for me. Summer and I have never gotten on well, not even as a child, but that was partly because we lived in a flat over a shop in a medium sized town in east central Indiana. Because my father was an artist, and this was the late 50s and early 60s, classmates weren’t allowed to come and play with me and I was never invited to their homes to play either.

Consequently, I spent lots of time in my father’s studio, which was another flat across the roof and one floor up from where we lived. It was some consolation and compensation for the lack of peers to engage with. I engaged instead with colour and form, and watched art being created. What I could imagine in my mind I could at least attempt to manifest with my hands. I did my first wood block print at age five. I soaked up creative energy like a sponge, but not the energies of land and earth and I had never see the sea at an age I could remember it.

Yes, there were two parks in the town. There were the occasional adventure walk with my father and year younger brother. But I lived pretty much an indoor life, most time outdoors spent walking to school and we also walked home for lunch. Always in a hurry, never really any time to look at things. The most engagement I had with nature was squeezing ‘gushy berries’, as I called yew berries, between my fingers.

I read the dictionary from the time I was nine or ten. It was my favourite book.

I missed school in the summer holidays, which were pretty much two and a half months long.

I never really accommodated myself to the season of heavy shade and oppressive humidity and with my severe mosquito allergy, well . . .

I never lived where crops were grown, except when visiting my mother’s people in Iowa, which we did every couple of years, my mother, brother and I. In Iowa it was maize, acres and acres of it ripening in the July sun. I remember the air conditioner in my Aunt Alberta’s beauty salon and the smell. It was icy in there and a relief from the worst of the heat. She and Uncle Fletcher lived in a rambling two storey house with a full basement and wrap around porch. There was a cherry tree one the side and rhubarb that I used to eat raw with salt. I can still see and smell it all clearly.

But, summer never felt right to me, an alien season. Summer is the season about the land and its productivity. I never had any real sense of that driving by or seeing it slip past outside the window of the Zephyr heading west from Chicago on the way to Iowa. I was an observer of the land and the landscape. I was never a participant in its energies. I never heard it call to me. Never was invited to meet its guardians, those I now understand to be the ancestors. And certainly had no notion of the gods.

When I was older and I lived in different places and had gardens to be in I tried hard to connect. I still was not able to do so. And, of course, summer was the hardest. Still plagued by reactions to mosquito bites and not keen on sunshine, finding its glare hard to take, summer was still not my best time of year.

Only since I’ve been living in the UK, nearly thirteen years now, have I been able to come to terms with summer and its excesses, as I always saw them. Here the summers are not as predictable as where I lived in the US. It can be hot and dry one year and the next chilly and sodden. And, I’ve not lived in a city. I lived on an Orcadian island, and in Devon and Somerset, where I still live, visited parts of Wales and spent time in the Highlands of Scotland and the far end of Cornwall. Always close to the land. Always welcomed by the ancestors. Always aware that the gods here are my gods.