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  • Monique Sliedrecht

Noticing

There is a late summer feeling in Caithness. A stillness hangs in the air as the bright sun casts its light over the landscape, bringing warm hues to the long grasses and leaves which are now just starting to change from deep, bright greens to russets and golds. The heather on the hills floods the moorland with one final burst of bright purple, a last hurrah to a rich medley of flowers that came and went during summer.




The swallows have been swooping low on such days, catching their meals and strengthening themselves for their long flight next month. Pied wagtails totter around on the freshly mowed lawns, their tails bobbing up and down. There have been rather a lot of wagtails this year, but I like them. They are friendly birds.


The farmer is busy plowing the distant fields for hay. The red tractor slowly draws square patches of yellow ochre in the middle of green, like a huge hi-lighter pen, creating an early autumn patchwork quilt over the land. It looks all neat and tidy.


Stepping out, I breathe in the air which is rich with new smells. I am reminded of Ontario, the province of my birth and where I grew up. It fills me with a sense of nostalgia.


I have a moment to walk down to the beach, something I haven't done for a few days. I miss it. I must admit that I have been rather overwhelmed by life lately. My weeks, while busy, have felt somewhat fragmented and lacking in focus, and decision-making has been laboursome.


Stepping out on a day like today brings a renewed sense of calm, reminding me that all is okay. There is a rhythm and newness to life, which includes all the transitional periods of uncertainty or restlessness. In it all there is beauty to be found.


The impact and elegance of the changing season impresses on my mind and heart, filling me with new courage, hope and an overall sense of peace. I never knew how much I needed this until I stepped out and saw what I had been missing. My mind slows down and the things that were going round and round in my head don't seem so important now.


I stop along the path to the beach to watch the bees buzzing around the slowly fading thistle, and look more closely at the hairy willowherb nearby, and the now flowerless cow parsley.











Eventually I lift my gaze, drinking in the views around me, my eyes shifting focus from the details to the wider picture.







Walking down to the shore and out onto the rocks at low tide becomes an extension of the rust colour palette that is beginning to show in the sea as well as the land.


Light catches on the fresh water trickling down from the old mill.









As I continue to clamber over the seaweed strewn rocks I notice a feather lodged in-between the fronds of egg wrack. I pick it up, and soon see another, and another.... I follow the trail they've created. There must have been a skirmish among the birds not long before. Gathering up the feathers, I gingerly place them into my camera bag. A kestrel's plumage perhaps?






***


Once it was time to head back, I was ready. When I returned home I was awash with a great sense of satisfaction, eager for the next venture. I felt lighter than I had before.


Stepping in the door of the house, I noticed the late afternoon light coming through the windows, adding extra brightness to the wonderful bouquet of flowers given by friends the other evening. Every time I look at this bunch of flowers I feel happy. The sunflowers remind me of France, and I love France.





I put my newly found feathers in a small ceramic vase, and placed them on the piano.






I want to keep noticing, to observe the small (and big) changes happening around me. In a sense, it keeps me patient with myself and others and helps me accept the pace and rhythm which I am at right now.


***



Early this morning I woke and got up to pour myself a glass of water. As I looked out of the kitchen window I saw the most wonderful sky. In the middle of the darkness hung the thin white crescent moon. Stars sparkled up high. It was stunning. I put down my glass and stepped outside, enjoying the stillness of the night for a few minutes. I didn't quite manage a quality photo, but this is my rather grainy capture of it anyway. It was hard for me to sleep after that....





PATIENCE. A POEM FOR LATE SUMMER.

BY MARY OLIVER


What is the good life now? Why, look here, consider the moon’s white crescent


rounding, slowly, over the half month to still another perfect circle–


the shining eye that lightens the hills, that lays down the shadows


of the branches of the trees, that summons the flowers to open their sleepy faces and look up


into the heavens. I used to hurry everywhere, and leaped over the running creeks.


There wasn’t time enough for all the wonderful things I could think of to do


in a single day. Patience comes to the bones before it takes root in the heart


as another good idea. I say this as I stand in the woods


and study the patterns of the moon shadows, or stroll down into the waters


that now, late summer, have also caught the fever, and hardly move from one eternity to another.



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