In National schools all over Ireland when I was a kid (there were no dinosaurs) we used to have to write “What I did on my summer holidays” type exercises. We were gently prodded to find more interesting ways to say things like “I went to my friend Sheila’s house and then we went to the shops and I got ice cream and it was very warm.” It is *really* warm, it is easily about 8 degrees more than I can comfortably cope with during the day. Irish people are only really happy with the security of days and days of rain. I find my brain struggles to remember to write, that I can write and that maybe I should, but I am faced, after weeks and weeks of unrelenting work (IT/coding) I’m only offering up ideas of things to write about that are effectively “What I did on a hot July Wednesday, by me”
I took a day off, I met a friend for a gloriously chatty and well shaded lunch outside and then in the evening, when it was a bearable sort of temperature, I went to Blackwood with the specific intention of finding butterflies because – once you leave the Beech wood section to go into the newer birch and young oak wood – there are any amount of basking junctions for the butterflies, in full sun, close to plants like oregano, knapweed, wild thyme and lady’s bedstraw. For whatever reason some heat addled part of my brain insisted – to the mild irritation of the rest of me – on referring to them as “Flitties”. There were lots; various sizes of Whites, Ringlets, Speckled Woods, Meadow Browns and a highly gratifying number of Silver-washed Fritillaries
I daydreamed my usual about encouraging them to land on me, they were having none of it. As usual they even largely disagreed with allowing me to take their photographs, but none so much as the *enormous* dragonfly that I could plainly hear thrumming around me, taunting me with the certain knowledge that no one would believe how big it was while it denied me a photograph. Every time I resolved to stop trying it would whirr by me at close quarters again. Thus denied I slouched out way from the sunny junction onto a shaded path, reluctant to chance any more time getting sunburned. An apocalypse of flies awaited. I cursed the dragonfly’s lack of personal attention anew. Away from the sun, the flurry of dragonfly wings, slow hum of bees and the hot, urgent stickchatter of grasshoppers was just their relentless, swirling whine. I was grateful for my long hair keeping it from getting up close and very personal with my ears as in times past, but I found it difficult not to imagine I was walking along with a snaking, dark veil of whirling, flies whirring and tiny voice shrieking in my aftermath. I was grateful to hit the next turn and leave them behind.
A fox ahead spotted me through undergrowth, stopped dead, paw raised, assessed me for fleet seconds and decided the woods proper were much to be preferred than meeting me. A shame. The path wound on through hazels and healthy young oaks. The hazelnuts will not be plentiful this year, I think, but what there are are growing fat in the sun. The oaks looks full leafed, green and strong.
Back under the greenshade of the beech forest there were those sun islands all about; the pools of sunwoven spiderwebs, neat circles of dappled flowers, clusters of tiny tree seedlings or crackling pine cones.
Oh and the boletes! I *think* (with some help from twitter) these are Lurid Boletes and they were everywhere, large and often darkening with age, an explosion of summer fungi after the not-all-that-long ago rain into the July heatwave. I loved seeing evidence of much nibbling and watching the blue coloration spread quickly as I snapped across the ones that were lying damaged on the path.
It is a long time since I was in school, and a long time away from Nature tables and how magic my 7 year old self would have found that blue coloration but small adventures and small experiences still make me so incredibly happy. I sit at my PC some days convinced that the thing I must get finished is so very important that I will put off walking for that day. Then I go to the woods and only hunger drives me home. It is astonishing how quickly the human brain forgets the things that are astonishing and good for it in the simple everyday.