August break Day 20: two
Playing catch-up, between visitors. Last week we took our friends down to the river on a sunny afternoon. While adults chatted over the remains of the picnic, we watched the children dibbling on the edge of the water. Skimming stones, catching minnows: it didn’t matter that the two of them speak different languages – everything is better with two.
August Break day18: ‘Look up’.
This was taken looking up the massive trunk of a Wellingtonia or giant redwood (Sequoiadendron giganteum) in the grounds of Blair Castle in highland Perthshire. Although not especially big by the standards of its species, the trunk still needed five people to stretch around it touching fingertips.
As a friend observed, this combination of big trees and a castle might seem like a bit of a busman’s holiday for us: we have a family of Basque friends staying, however, and so are trying to show them some of the highlights of our part of the world. And great fun it is too to be a tourist in someone else’s castle, admiring someone else’s trees, with no responsibility for either!
You might enjoy The Tuesday tree: planning for the future.
August Break day 14: my favourite smell.
I thought this would be so hard to choose: apple blossom, warm cinnamon, log fire, roses, lemon zest, seashore…but the answer came decisively. My favourite smell of all has to be English lavender, fresh from the garden. What’s yours?
Regarding apple blossom in the garden, you might enjoy Seeing this, who could blame Eve?
August for many families in northern Europe means summer holidays. Buckets and spades on breezy English beaches; the Grand Départ from Paris to the coast; boat trips, festivals, lazy days and sunburn. Aah, bliss.
In Scotland, on the other hand, August signals the end of summer. We had our wonderful seaside holiday in July: back home, the beech trees are yellowing at the tips as the sap falls, the rowan berries are reddening and the state schools are going back a week today.
Yet our southern friends are in the middle of summer, so we have had a flurry of phone calls and emails from people who are going to be in Scotland in August as it happens, and might they come and stay for a few days…? Yes, is the answer if at all possible: August is thus a busy month for us. With my elder son is starting at his new senior school at the beginning of September, I also have forms to complete in the morning and nametapes to sew on in the evenings, trying to fit the necessary admin around guests and their needs.
For these reasons, I don’t imagine that I’ll have much time to blog this month. Author Susannah Conway has come up with an inspiring answer to this common summer difficulty. Taking part in her ‘August Break’ means following an informal list of prompts for posting daily photos with minimal commentary. There’s absolutely no chance I’ll manage to post on a daily basis! I’ve been joining in a little bit, however, in a haphazard way, so I thought it might be fun to share whatever I manage from now on here on Dancing Beastie. As I say, with house guests lining up for the rest of the month I will manage only the occasional post, but I think it will be fun even to manage something rather than nothing. If you would like to join in too, her list of prompts can be found on her blog here.
Yesterday’s prompt was ‘Talisman’. For me, it had to be deer. I took a photo of a cushion on a window seat, which caught the sun’s rays in an extraordinary way, lending the printed stag a slightly trippy, otherworldly look. Quite appropriate to the prompt, I thought.
Today’s prompt was ‘Edge’.This made me think of paper – edges of pages – and also tables…both from trees, which made me think…I guess this is cheating a bit as it’s an old photo, but a favourite: the edge of the wood, my favourite beech wood where my favourite dog is buried. The trees lean out into the pasture, and the sheep and cattle shelter under their branches.
I hope I’ll have the chance to add a few more as the month goes on. Please do let me know if you are following the prompts yourself!
You might enjoy Late summer in the garden.
The wild foxgloves are flowering in the woods, their mauve spires vivid against the background greens.
As I child, I was fascinated by foxgloves. Their evocative name and the warnings of their being deadly poisonous gave them an eerie, faerie allure. I’ve never managed to imagine foxes wearing these flowerets on their clawed little paws, but I was often tempted to slip them over my own fingers.
Only my mother’s warning of their poison stopped me – that, and the ever-present possibility of sticking one’s finger into an indignant bee by mistake.
The bees seem to be unaffected by the digitalis toxins, and are as busy in these strange, spotted hoods as they are in the clover on the grass this month. It’s always a pleasure to see them at work.
Keeping out of their way, I turn for home, noticing as I go how the spires of the plant echo the boughs of the ancient beech behind them. I could look and look, but duty calls.
Note: Foxgloves are also known in some places as witches’ gloves. They are traditionally associated with witchcraft, as witches allegedly used the toxin from the plant to enable them to fly. As digitalis poisoning can induce vivid hallucinations, there may well be some basis to this tale. Nowadays, carefully controlled digitalis extract is used in pharmaceutical medicine to benefit heart patients. No flying required.
You might also enjoy Ariel’s Song.
As you might have gathered if you have been kind enough to drop in here over the past month, I seem to be having various ish-yoos with blogging this year. It’s not that I don’t want to write: many posts are begun in my head. For some reason, however, they are not reaching the finished and published stage. I am trying to work out the reasons for this, and what to do about it. It is, I think, a mixture of health problems, an ambivalence of attitude, and other distractions. I’m sure many – most? – other bloggers encounter the same sort of thing from time to time.
I have not forgotten the pleasure afforded by regular blogging, especially through the interaction with fellow-bloggers and readers. If I can sort myself out, I hope to rejoin the conversation!
Meanwhile, the natural world affords as much wonder as ever to me here in Scotland. The first half of the year having been mostly pretty cold and wet, our growing season is late. June’s roses are as yet only in bud, while May’s bluebells still scent the woods at midsummer. An osprey, a summer visitor to the river, mews high over my head in the early mornings when I take the dogs out. Red squirrels scrabble up the tree-trunks of oak and yew, chittering crossly at us as we pass underneath. On these cool evenings of early summer, the eye is dazzled by sun breaking through clouds onto the lochan beyond the trees. Let’s hope this gleam of solstice sunshine is a forerunner for more to come – and I will do my best to share a bit more with you, too.
You might enjoy Suddenly, midsummer.