Spring is young and does, indeed, have a spring in its step. All eyes are on the future, even though we know, really, that future will come too soon. June and July are the excited muscularity of the young adult, the time of ambition. But, by August, we have grown a little thick in the middle and we are in our forties.
My grandmother, who made it to one hundred and was therefore more wise than we gave her credit for, said, “When men and women forty become, the men are all belly and the women all bum!” Oh, how we all laughed at her roguery, but, dammit, she was right.
August has, indeed, got a bit of a belly. It tries to hide it, with its promises of long, hazy, lazy days of summer, but it ends up giving us midges and chilly early mornings that presage the autumn stillness
Where are those brave snowdrops, those electric bluebells, the sky-reflecting forget-me-nots?. They have been covered by brambles.
Brambles grow so quickly and vigorously over broken ground that forensic botanists use their spread on the woodland floor to date the time of burial of a discovered buried body. The study and science of brambles is called ‘batology’.
At the moment, in the woods I walk in every day, a batologist would have a wonderful time. The brambles are racing down the slope to the river, knowing they need to find good ground and get well-rooted before the frost and the advancing darkness of the equinox. The blackberries will be plentiful this autumn, as the wild raspberries are at the moment. Bodies will be covered before the snow.
The green of the wood has changed, from the vibrant lime of new leaves to the tired, darker green of nettles that are leaning under the weight of raindrops or dust.
The delicate whites and pinks and lemons have been replaced by stronger colours, like the acidic yellow of the ragwort, which is poisonous to cattle, and the splashes of purple of the rose bay willow herb, otherwise known as fireweed, from its liking for bomb sites after the Second World War, and its propensity to spread along the railways, following the scorched earth caused by the grass fires that followed steam locomotives.
The woods are strangely quiet. The birds are mostly silent, and some of them are trying to put on as much fat as possible to see them through another migration, counting their accumulating wealth in grams of fat reserves.
The year is starting to grow flabby. August is paying off its mortgage and thinking about its pension.
When it retires, it thinks, it will go on the world cruise of a lifetime – the glorious and extravagant autumn!