O Autumn, laden with fruit

When the nights creep  in earlier and earlier and we draw the curtains and turn on or light the fires, that’s when reading poems is most satisfying – especially if it’s cold and nipsome outside. Autumn is slipping away and winter is approaching, but the trees are still stunning especially when the sun catches bronze and golden leaves and crimson fruit and berries… And this is what we think of snuggled in at home with the dark and the cold outside, we think of the lovely days we’ve had with the splendid turn of season colours.

Here’s a poem by William Blake:

To Autumn

O Autumn, laden with fruit, and stained
With the blood of the grape, pass not, but sit
Beneath my shady roof; there thou mayst rest,
And tune thy jolly voice to my fresh pipe,
And all the daughters of the year shall dance!
Sing now the lusty song of fruits and flowers.

“The narrow bud opens her beauties to
The sun, and love runs in her thrilling veins;
Blossoms hang round the brows of Morning, and
Flourish down the bright cheek of modest Eve,
Till clust’ring Summer breaks forth into singing,
And feather’d clouds strew flowers round her head.

“The spirits of the air live on the smells
Of fruit; and Joy, with pinions light, roves round
The gardens, or sits singing in the trees.”
Thus sang the jolly Autumn as he sat;
Then rose, girded himself, and o’er the bleak
Hills fled from our sight; but left his golden load.

William Blake1757 – 1827

The month of carnival

The air has changed… it’s not just that tonight was cold, a clear sky and a frostiness about, something in the quality has changed – autumn to winter.  We were walking out at about 9:30 and it was almost a scent, almost the feel of the night on our cheeks and noses… the air has changed.

After tonight there will only be one more day of October, so here is something from Helen Hunt Jackson who was born this month one hundred and eighty-seven years ago:

A Calendar Of Sonnets: October 

The month of carnival of all the year,
When Nature lets the wild earth go its way,
And spend whole seasons on a single day.
The spring-time holds her white and purple dear;
October, lavish, flaunts them far and near;
The summer charily her reds doth lay
Like jewels on her costliest array;
October, scornful, burns them on a bier.
The winter hoards his pearls of frost in sign
Of kingdom: whiter pearls than winter knew,
Oar empress wore, in Egypt’s ancient line,
October, feasting ‘neath her dome of blue,
Drinks at a single draught, slow filtered through
Sunshiny air, as in a tingling wine!

Helen Hunt Jackson: 1830-1885

Living with the seasons

There was an interesting item on the radio this morning about a man who decided to live without money for a year; he planned it, not by stocking up on loads of thing so he didn’t need to go shopping, but by researching what he should do in terms of growing his own food, and foraging and harvesting from the wild. He sold or got rid of everything he owned and gave up all his bank and savings accounts so he really was dependent on what he could grow of find.

he had an old caravan in an orchard somewhere near here, between bath and Bristol and he kept a journal of his exploits. He received a lot of publicity and was invited place to give talks and meet people to explain how he was living and he said sometimes he would do what a lot of homeless or people living in straightened circumstances do, go round the back of supermarkets and find food that was perfectly good but past its sell-by date – I have written about this before and what a waste it is.

He had no radio of anything like that and in the evenings he, and any visitors he had, would sit round a fire and sing and dance, and entertain themselves. His experiment continued after the one year, and he actually continued this life-style for another eighteen months. It sounds idyllic, but I am sure there must have been times when he was cold, and hungry, and lonely, and times when he wondered how he was going to manage.

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I don’t think I would like to do this as a life-style but I think I would be interested in experiencing it for a week… It is not something I intend to do however; he bought nothing, not even soap or toilet paper… I leave it to your imagination how he managed! However, I certainly think there are lessons to be learned, and the idea of ‘getting back to nature’ and living with the seasons appeals to me. I do grow vegetables and herbs, I do gather wild fruits and berries, I do try to preserve excess food we have grown or come by, hence my experiments with drying fruit and herbs (not very successfully last year, perhaps better this summer!) making my own cheese, salting beans (a total failure) and making jam, jelly and pickles.

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So… today, with the better, warmer, lighter days coming, I shall sow some seeds, and start preparing the vegetable beds to receive them!

If you want to know more about mark Boyle, the money-less man, read his blog and manifesto, it’s fascinating!

http://www.moneylessmanifesto.org/

Flood 2012

Last year seemed that all the disasters that the advocates of global warming prophesied where coming true… I actually believe that human activity has significantly and maybe catastrophically affected our climate, but last year we seemed to have such appalling weather that I feared the worst scenario would be upon us sooner than we had anticipated. Unseasonal mildness, unseasonal cold spells and even snow, rain, rain and more rain, warm winters…. oh the signs seemed to be everywhere.

The film ‘The Day After Tomorrow’, although in the classic disaster movie genre, seemed just too believable for comfort.

But this year we have had a traditional lovely summer, with temperatures well within the normal range (although worldwide I do believe we are warmer) that I put my worries aside and just enjoyed it! Walking out in the evenings with bare arms and bare legs, waking in the night to be comfortable without covers, to wake in the morning with sunshine… I’m going to forget my concerns for the moment and just enjoy the memories!

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Sea change

I wanted to find a poem about weather as there has been an abrupt change here. We live right by the sea between two hills and on the outer reaches of the estuary of a very large river, joined by a smaller bust still significant river. Across the channel from us is another country, and looking out to sea from the beach, if we had telescopic vision and the earth was flat, then the next land we would see is Newfoundland… we live in Uphill, and the great river is the Severn, and its major tributary is the River Avon. Our location has a lot to do with the weather we experience and the forecasts cannot always get it right for us as the hills nearby swirl the rain clouds away on occasion, or the sea brings the drizzle sweeping in. From the upper rooms of our house you can’t quite see the sea but you can look across the low area of the south Somerset coast down towards Devon. From my room where I work at the back of the house I look east, and I can see the line of the Mendip Hills snaking inland. I sit by the window so I’m looking out all the time, seeing the clouds moving, gathering, passing, the sun rising in winter, the trees moving with the wind.

I went to my favourite poetry site, www.poets.org, to look for a weather poem and was delighted at the choice. It’s a great site and you can look for poems by poet, by topic, by chance! there is a load of information about everything you could imagine. So I was looking for a weather poem and this is what they suggested:

  • Sleet by Alan Shapiro
  • From “Snow-Bound,” 11:1-40, 116-154 by John Greenleaf Whittier
  • In April by James Hearst
  • Now Winter Nights Enlarge by Thomas Campion
  • The Storm by Theodore Roethke
  • Ode to the West Wind by Percy Bysshe Shelley
  • The Snow Storm by Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • A Winter Without Snow by J. D. McClatchy
  • An Octave Above Thunder by Carol Muske-Dukes
  • Rain by Claribel Alegría
  • Even the Rain by Agha Shahid Ali
  • Aubade: Some Peaches, After Storm by Carl Phillips
  • It Was Raining In Delft by Peter Gizzi
  • Sitting Outside by W. D. Snodgrass
  • A Crosstown Breeze by Henry Taylor
  • A Line-storm Song by Robert Frost
  • Flood by Eliza Griswold
  • Flood by Miyazawa Kenji
  • Great Sleeps I Have Known by Robin Becker
  • Problems with Hurricanes by Victor Hernández Cruz
  • Snow by Naomi Shihab Nye
  • Who Has Seen the Wind? by Christina Rossetti

Here is just a little poem, a well-known one by Christina Rossetti; we’ve had a lot of wind recently, but being by the sea that’s what we expect!

Who has seen the wind?
Neither I nor you:
But when the leaves hang trembling,
The wind is passing through.
Who has seen the wind?
Neither you nor I:
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.

Six months ago

Looking down our road, already baking in lovely early morning sunshine, it’s hard to remember that only six months ago it was covered in snow. I hope the fact that we had a cold winter with snow, and now a hot summer with sunshine, signals a return to more distinct seasons. It was so depressing, when for a couple of years  there seemed to be whole years of dreary sameness, miserable, wet dreary winters, and pretty wet, miserable dreary summers. I’m a bit of a child when it comes to snow, I love it, but I do understand that it makes life difficult for some people (although I do think we are too easily panicked into closing schools etc) I like there to be a season which is definitely spring-time, and not just a damp intermission between a slightly colder and slightly warmer time of year. I like autumn to be splendidly clothed in glory, and mysterious fogs to herald winter’s coming. It’s all about balance, a natural balance, and over the last few years, whether there has been long-term climate-change or not, the seasons seem to have been out of balance.

This afternoon, I’m helping at a local fund-raising fête, last year I did the same, and we stood in drizzle, the ink on our notices running, the notices themselves flapping away in the chilly wind, and no-one interested in anything on our stall as everyone wanted to shelter in the tea tent. It will be a different story this afternoon I think!

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In Summer Time

When summer time has come, and all
The world is in the magic thrall
Of perfumed airs that lull each sense
To fits of drowsy indolence;
When skies are deepest blue above,
And flow’rs aflush,–then most I love
To start, while early dews are damp,
And wend my way in woodland tramp
Where forests rustle, tree on tree,
And sing their silent songs to me;
Where pathways meet and path ways part,–
To walk with Nature heart by heart,
Till wearied out at last I lie
Where some sweet stream steals singing by
A mossy bank; where violets vie
In color with the summer sky,–
Or take my rod and line and hook,
And wander to some darkling brook,
Where all day long the willows dream,
And idly droop to kiss the stream,
And there to loll from morn till night–
Unheeding nibble, run, or bite–
Just for the joy of being there
And drinking in the summer air,
The summer sounds, and summer sights,
That set a restless mind to rights
When grief and pain and raging doubt
Of men and creeds have worn it out;
The birds’ song and the water’s drone,
The humming bees’ low monotone,
The murmur of the passing breeze,
And all the sounds akin to these,
That make a man in summer time
Feel only fit for rest and rhyme.
Joy springs all radiant in my breast;
Though pauper poor, than king more blest,
The tide beats in my soul so strong
That happiness breaks forth in song,
And rings aloud the welkin blue
With all the songs I ever knew.
O time of rapture! time of song!
How swiftly glide thy days along
Adown the current of the years,
Above the rocks of grief and tears!
‘Tis wealth enough of joy for me
In summer time to simply be.
by Paul Dunbar

Hot stuff

The weather has changed; I’m glad that it has become more seasonable and is bitterly cold and winter-like. We are a country of four seasons, so I like to have four distinct seasons, bright spring, hot summer, warm autumn, cold winter – that’s how it should be.

I’ve become fed up with the never-ending greyness and rain…  last year, a wet spring drizzled into a sodden summer which deteriorated into a torrential autumn and a moist, soggy, depressing winter. We had so much rain, day, after day after day and it was so dispiriting. We had a few days of bright snow…

ax snow (15)… which disappeared while I was away in Glasgow watching a band I like. January went and February came with more of the same, floods and inundations all around.

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At last we have had a period without rain; the wind has come from the east, a bitter, nasty, bone-freezing wind, and it has been so dry that although we have had frost it hasn’t settled because there has been no moisture in the air.

Now, I’m not meaning to complain, because I’m pleased it is dry, and we need low temperatures to kill off all the nasty bugs and creatures which were so prolific and destructive in our garden last year… but… but it is just so bloomin’ perishing! I am so cold sitting here writing that my nose has lost its feeling and my fingers are white.

I should put on the heating, I know, but we’re trying to be economical, so on with the poncho (yes, really) and wrap myself in a blanket, borrow my daughter’s fingerless gloves and carry on… maybe I need some hot stuff… so on with The Maverick’s new CD, and tomato soup with lashings of chilli.