August. Dog days. August denies the inevitability of death, exploring new life just as other lives begin visibly to wane.
Today I walked up the path from Beesands to neighbouring Tor Cross. At one time this would have been an important path, as it is the shortest path between these two coastal settlements that would have at one time been important fishing villages. Beesands boasts a building grand enough that it just might have had some kind of assay or tax purpose (who knows?), but it does seem likely that keeping a land link open between these two settlements and the other settlements in the Bay was important. There is no direct land link between Beesands and Tor Cross at sea level, for even at high tide it’s not possible to walk directly into Tor Cross.
So this pathway feels timeless, even though it’s entirely possible that these steps are relatively modern additions. If there had been steps there before this became part of the South West Coast Path they would presumably have been stone and not wood, although this may be an entirely incorrect assumption. Certainly the ‘wildness’ that you see and experience is in fact a highly maintained byway: without somewhat regular cutting back and clearance this patch would soon close. In summer, it almost does, with some parts entirely overgrown overhead so that you must walk in a dark tunnel that brushes you and reaches out for your head as if uncertain whether to let you pass.
It’s the first of August and when I left Beesands a heavy mist had come in, shortly after daybreak. As soon as the land heated up, the cold sea gave up its ghostly mist onto the land, and here it hovered and shifted until about 11am. As we were leaving the beach so too was the fog, so that by the time we arrived back at the house we were pretty much in bright sunlight.
August denies the falling of the year, but cannot resist it entirely. Already trees and their leaves are showing signs of fatigue and old age. Colours deepen and become enriched by the months of light, warmth, and growth. In the veg garden, the potato foliage is decaying (for once, a natural decay rather then the blight which has come early in the rotten summers of recent years) even while other plants continue to put on new growth. The year is heading towards late middle age, and like all of us, nature must accept the challenges and changes of ageing. But other plants are more in denial, and some in fact are being led towards that ultimate life affirmer: the winter flowering. N recently planted chard, just as the cherry trees and raspberries and strawberries boast of their new growth at this time of decline. Fresh spring green continue to sprout everywhere even as the backbone, the mother plants, head towards ultimate decline and (in some cases) death.
This poppy plant, alone on the beach, sends out preposterous seed heads in the hope of reproducing, denying its own death. Although similar to its land siblings and near relatives, I have seen no other poppy with seed heads like these. There must be many many thousands in the pin-prick sized poppy seeds in this plant, suggesting that it’s chances of successful reproduction are poor, almost impossible.
So August, like April, is a denier. And we revel in that denial in the forlorn hope that summer will last for ever, as will we.