Summer time and the living is easy….. I share Gershwin’s sentiment, and it is all because of our life-giving sun. The days are as long as the nights are short. The longest day of the year is the summer solstice. It is the longest period of light and it makes everything more luminous, brighter and vivid. The summer heat makes the air still and the woodlands, fields and gardens fragrant. Trees exude sap. Flowers turn their faces toward the sun, birds can be seen sunbathing on branches, their wings spread wide, frogs and lizards warm themselves on the larger stones. Only ants and bees are working hard, ignoring the decadence of other insects flying around in gay abandon. In the early morning, the sun illuminates the dew-covered webs draped over the bushes and hedges. Somewhere close, among the rosebush branches, a silk cocoon can be found, full of baby spiders, exquisite in their shimmering beauty. Summer nights are the best time to see or rather sense the flying mammal, the bat. Overhead and in the dark, their shapes, wings flapping, flit at speed but never collide with each other or human passers-by. It is because their special organ emits very high-pitched sound waves that warns the bats of any obstacles. Apart from bats, other creatures of the night are owls. In rural places, the hooting of owls adds to the atmospheric mystery of the dark night. Balmy summer nights are also perfect for star-gazing as the sky is generally clear. And the moon? The moon is beautiful and fascinating at any time of the year. I look at the full moon’s craters and dunes and wonder if there is any cheese there? Especially Wensleydale….
The earth warms up quickly now during the day, and loses the heat slowly during the night. Sea water, because of its huge volume, warms up much more slowly and that is why it affects the changes in the climate. Water, whether seas or rivers, is almost alive as it moves continuously. It was rightly observed that you can only swim once in the same water of a river.
Summer is a time of weekend trips to the seaside, of building sandcastles and of paddling in shallow sea water. It is a time of beach combing and looking into rock pools. It is a time of picnics, and a time of holidays. The beaches are full of sun worshippers, lying prostrate, their eyes closed, determined to get a healthy golden colour. Those who prudently avoided crowded motorways can now have time for a cool drink in their gardens and to enjoy the beauty of the flowers as all the work for a time is done. The crops in the fields are still green but in a month it will be harvest time. The ancient Roman goddess, Ceres, was believed to protect flowers, fruit and crops; wheat, rye, barley and oats. The name ‘cereals’ comes from her name. By the end of the summer, in August, the crops have been harvested and now straw-yellow fields have rolled-up sheaves of wheat, drying out before being taken to the barns.
These two pictures symbolise the success of human endeavour. From the depths of time, as long as we have had bread and water, we would overcome every obstacle. I would also add sheep’s cheese, my great favourite. Add to that wild garlic from a meadow and life is wonderful or a wonderful life, as you please…
The meadows are now full of wild flowers, poppies and cornflowers in particular. Others like foxtails, wild oats, ox-eye daisies, forget-me-nots, dandelions and various grasses make meadows a picture of natural beauty. The most colourful of them, poppies, also grow in abundance on the high verges of motorways. Wild flowers attract many insects including butterflies.
In the late summer, heat builds up, and the air becomes heavy and overcast. At this time of the year, a storm can be threatening as the sun has created a lot of electricity in the air. A flash of lightning, a powerful electric charge, is carried by a dark skein of clouds that are bulging with rain. The air has a faintly metallic taste. A sudden gust of the howling wind whips up the dust and sets the treetops swaying violently. Heavy clouds speed wildly, pushed by the pent-up power of the storm. The skies reverberate with the thunderous sound and the tension in the air is almost palpable. Finally, heavy rain pelts the parched earth. And then as quickly as it came, the thunder has gone. Sunlight seeps through the few remaining clouds, and the dazzling blue of emerging sky and the freshness of ozone-scented air is exhilarating. And that is what makes Summertime so interesting and unpredictable.