The Summer Season Begins in Piedmont
For certain, as time has gone before, farmers could rely on the changing of the seasons, not like clockwork but in a rhythm of clearing, sewing, tending, pruning, watering, harvesting and resting. All conducted at a certain time and manner befitting the season. This seems to be changing along with our climate sadly.
I was out walking today on what finally felt like the first day of real summer. Before me were a multitude of herbs, fruits and wild grass that seemed to be thriving but according to my journals kept over the last 4 years all seemed to be late in their scented splendor. I have been contemplating this for some time. I admit to only having walked a half life so far on my journey on the earth, but it seems to me the seasons are shifting slowly.
But let’s not be too hasty to start mourning the loss of what we know seasonal timings to be when we can look around us now and enjoy the view.
On my stroll
Stepping out of the fading wooden front door thoughts of re-varnishing it leave my mind on seeing the beautiful sight before me, the Langhe Hills of Piedmont, in perfect green and lush magnificence. My ears are hit hard with a choir of bird song, as I make my way down the stone driveway and pass the soon to bloom lavender to my right and the overgrowing hedge to my left. Butterflies dart about through my experimental wilding habitat and the frantic buzzing and strumming of bees and crickets awaken my senses to summer. I can’t believe it’s here. No more rain forecast just glorious sunshine baked days.
Strolling on to the Strada I hear no motors coming, only a cuckoo calling. I take in the sight of my elderflowers coming into bloom, though not as plentiful as last year. I think there is just enough heads to make my Elderfower cordial. I take in a deep lungful of green, new summer, air.
The background is full of the low hum of strimming sounds from distant farms. It’s that time of the year when farmers here go at it like mad things, sweating through their ‘overalls and ruining the tranquillity of nature on the rise. I feel somewhat clever for adopting Isabella Trees ‘Wilderness’ approach in the garden. I have informed the neighbours of my wilding experiment. They crease up their brows on hearing my plan to let the land go ‘au naturel’ and look at me bemused. Unless there is a heatwave of epic proportions, and fear of land burning, I won’t be moved on my decision.
Last year when we gave up chasing our tails with the strimming of it all, this new approach soon became a revelation. There were more bees and butterflies and insects I had never seen before flitting amongst the long grass and wild flowers and this year there are even more. I love it. I love treading in my wellies through the wild wheat that dominates the background of this natural landscape, they sway at my shoulder showering me lightly with tiny crickets. I enjoy seeing a habitat of natural beauty rather than artificial boring cut grass. I love wondering what all the pretty flowers and herbs are that grow in this wild apothecary. I wish I knew. I feel that we have lost so much knowledge of nature and its healing properties over the last 100 years.
I stroll along leisurely up the winding hill. A stream trickles down the side, snaking its way down to my neighbour Giovanni’s small lake, providing his captured fish with clean water. Just the other week we were visiting Giovanni and Anna on the way back from town. Giovanni's eyes gleamed at the sight of us and his enthusiastic kissing and big hugs forewarned us that he was about to ask a favour. He was.
He pointed towards a small wooden white rowing boat that sat in his driveway, about four foot wide with a bench in the middle. He was about to place it in the lake but obviously he couldn’t do it alone. It required some wrestling to heave it on the back of the small trailer, but Andrew and Giovanni deftly managed it with some flexing of the muscles. I went with Anna to watch the two men at work. We headed down to the lake, passing the sheep and baby lambs who stood stock still and bleated quizzically at us. Finally, through much grunting, posturing and panting the boat slapped into the water. Back slapping and cheering met it’s bounce on the water, particularly with the sight of it floating. Giovanni clambered in and set to rowing like only a man from Sardinia could do. The fish won’t know what’s coming!
Climbing high up the hill I am completely alone. No houses are in view, no cars growling by. Solitude. All is lush and green, every shade of green even eucalyptus green from a tall gangly sapling. There are so many birds, I wish I had my long departed grandfather with me on this walk to tell me what birds are singing now. The question comes back to my mind ‘How much knowledge have we lost over the last 100 years?’ It is frustrating me not to know, I can’t even see the birds to identify them as they are hidden in the rich green foliage of the trees.
I turn back and take in the view of the valley, as it curves down to the village out of sight around the hills, as it always has done for thousands of years. How fortunate am I to live here and be a witness to nature in all its sprouting, budding, springing glory, now that summer has arrived.
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