Happy July, everyone! Today we are finally having a summer’s day, with warm sunshine. Yesterday it was warm and cloudy. The Dafter has been going through a hard patch of being even more ill than usual, but I managed to get her out in the car, and we went for a short walk in Mugdock Park, to the north of Glasgow (in the town of Milngavie, pronounced Mul-GUY). The pond was so still. The reflections were beautiful:
In following Katharine Stewart’s A Garden in the Hills, I missed her essay of June 23rd. It is fascinating, because she describes going for a walk on a midsummer’s evening – and falling asleep outdoors.
“I wander on, all sense of time forgotten, tiredness gone. The night air is scented with bog myrtle. Suddenly, there’s the sound so seldom heard these days – the vibrating sound of snipe rising. … It brings back memories of the days when all this ground was alive with birds – with nesting curlew and plover, with redshank, mallard and oyster-catcher and all the small summer birds. Now the pattern of cultivation has changed so drastically we are deprived of these lives.
I reach the woodland by the loch. … I sit down in a natural hide of fallen branches. The water is calm, reflecting the last tinges of yesterday’s sunlight, as today’s moves imperceptibly round by the north, hardly fading in its slow course. …
There is a certain eerieness about the water, lying there so still in the half light. Could this be the calm before a storm? I remember how certain of the older folk were reluctant to pass by the loch after nightfall. Was there a kelpie lurking there in the peaty depths? On this particular night the supernatural seems incredibly real.” (p. 85)
I know a man, now in his sixties, who says he saw a kelpie, or water-horse, while hill-walking. Who is to say such things aren’t possible?
Tilly has the same slightly spooked feeling in the garden at 8:30 at night. Do you see her looking back at me for reassurance? The rest of the time she peered into the hedge.
Katharine Stewart fell asleep there by the loch. “I draw a deep breath and close my eyes. When I open them again the whole sky is suffused with pale pink light. The water is still dark and smooth but, close at hand, a ripple is emerging. Moments later a small dark head appears. A miniature kelpie? Of course not. A sleek, dark body scrambles ashore and makes for the sandy patch where a burn enters the loch. Totally unaware of me, the otter searches about for his breakfast, uttering soft whickering sounds, as though calling to his family. … As I reach the house the sun is climbing steadily into a sky that changes almost imperceptibly from pink to pale green, to deeper and deeper blue. I look at the clock. In human time it is still only a quarter past five.” (p. 86)
What a beautiful experience to have! If it were me, sitting out by the loch all night long, I would have been bitten to death by midges. I am being bitten just out in the garden in Glasgow. That sometimes happened in Aberdeen too.
Katharine Stewart wrote on the 1st of July, “A glorious morning leads in the month” and it is the same today. After discussing her vegetable patch, she writes, “One wild flowering I’m missing this year is the white, silky heads of the bog cotton in the damp ground by the loch. Some years it’s like a huge drift of snow. A bunch kept in a waterless vase will last two winters through. In older times the heads were used as stuffing for pillows.” (p. 88-89)
Maybe it’s as well that every year gives us slightly different gifts, so we can appreciate what we might otherwise not. The West Coast of Scotland has been so very wet this spring and summer, perhaps there will be plenty of bog cotton? In another month we are due to go to the Isle of Harris as a family for the first time in four years. I do very much hope the Dafter’s health will allow us. Here in Glasgow, my rain gauge tally for the first half of 2015 is at more than 20″. Is that a lot?
I wish you all a very good start to July. It’s the full moon today, a propitious time. Make a wish!