On August 28th (ca 1994), Katharine Stewart wrote about Games Day in her Highland Glen. “In years gone by it was a time, between harvesting the hay and cutting the corn, when folk could meet, engage in feats of skill and endurance, sing, dance, exchange greetings and news.” (A Garden in the Hills, p. 104) She describes the races, the tourists, the young Highland dancers, the pipe bands, the “heavy” events. “The ‘heavy’ events have their origins in everyday doings of former times. ‘Tossing the caber’ is a feat demanding unimaginable strength and skill, when something like a telegraph pole has to be lifted and flung so that it goes up and over in as straight a line as possible. This, at one time, was found to be a way of getting felled trees clear of the wood, when they were needed for buildilng or other purposes. Weight-throwing was said to be a pastime enjoyed by men waiting at the blacksmith’s for jobs to be completed at the anvil. Testing your skill and strength against another’s has always been attractive to the young.” (p. 105)
That last sentence amuses me: it isn’t condescending, but it reflects the perspective one gains with age. I think (frozen shoulder aside) if someone challenged me to arm-wrestle now, I couldn’t be bothered. But at one time I would have enjoyed it, because I used to be quite good at it. (Scrabble is a different matter.)
Stewart describes how, at the end of the Games, people bid each other a fond farewell until the next year. “Then it’s back to ‘auld claes and parritch’.” This is a common expression in Scotland. It means getting back to routine life after a special event. Literally, back to “old clothes and porridge”. Over the summer, a friend told me that he and his wife had had their grandchildren staying for the summer, which had been wonderful, but he was glad to be back to “auld claes and parritch”.
On the 2nd of September, Katharine Stewart wrote: “It’s difficult, this year, to accept the fact that summer has gone, for it seems as though it never really came.” (p. 106) Twenty-one years later most people in Scotland are saying the same thing. I myself usually love the autumn, and feel glad to be back to “auld claes and parritch,” glad to be at the start of another school year. This year I was sad to see September come. Is it because I haven’t worked for a few years now, or because the summer weather was so poor? It doesn’t matter, because I will trim my sails to the wind and enjoy myself.
And in fact, the past few days have given us some beautiful sunshine. We are enjoying an Indian Summer. The garden is still providing bouquets:
The bench and bower has been coming and going over the last year. It was made for us by a community enterprise called GalGael. GalGael (which loosely means “Lowland/Highland” in Gaelic) allows people with problems such as addiction and homelessness to learn woodworking crafts. They designed and built this bench and bower for us to fit into the small space, and after a few tweaks it is back just in time for me to start training the roses up and over it.
A friend gave me a packet of wildflower seeds, and some pretty flowers have come up. Does anyone know what these are?
Stewart writes, “Autumn is the time for planning. … The clematis I planted two years ago, and had almost given up for dead, is thrusting nicely up into the ivy in the corner by the porch. I decide to cut back other climbers, put in more spring bulbs – crocus, scylla, miniature iris – and low-growing plants – thyme, alyssum, aubretia, campanula, all well-loved flowers with manageable roots.” (pp. 106-107) I, too, have been planning for next spring. I’ve ordered more plant supports, and spring bulbs. And I have been tying thread around certain poppy stalks, to gather the seed once the pods are ripe. Next summer’s garden starts now! There’s lots to look forwards to.
The other thing about autumn which I increasingly treasure is that it reminds me we all need to rest. When I was younger, I really felt that the trees losing their leaves was almost tragic. Now that I am older and wiser, I worry when the winter storms come early and the trees haven’t lost all their leaves. The bare tree branches can withstand the storms, but the heavy laden branches are soon snapped off. There is wisdom in taking time out from being productive.
The other day, Michael gave me part of a weekday off from my caring duties, and I went on a little adventure. (I will show you that soon, along with a few other posts from the summer that I want to share.) I particularly enjoyed going through the city centre at the front of the top deck of a double-decker bus:
This morning the sun is out again, though it was chilly first thing. The Dafter is doing pretty well but has had some physical challenges. After a meningitis vaccination, and a few days later surgery on her mouth, she has come down with a cold. But she has battled on and only missed one (half) day of school so far. Fingers very tightly crossed she will get back to where she was sooner rather than later. The sunshine will help.
I wish you all a good weekend, and for those who start school after the Labor Day holidays, happy Back-to-School!