Ah – September – the golden month when low sun slinks across fading gardens, hedgerows hang heavy with fruit and the arable harvest is almost done. The last two wheat fields are being cut today, the huge thumping combine knifing through the silvered crop, leaving stubbles glowing yolk yellow. As we watch the tractor pulling alongside to take off another load of grain, a rat leaps for freedom. Already on the rest of the farm young oilseed rape is emerging from barley stubble and sugar beet is the last crop left to cut.
At the end of August over 30 house martins appeared, sunning themselves on the east facing roof, preening, swooping up at the old nest site, reconnoitring, remembering, gathering friends and family. They stayed 30 minutes and were gone, drifting south, heading for France and onwards. No-one knows quite where the house martins spend our winter.
One afternoon I watched as over 70 birds whisked across the garden – a flock of blue, great and long-tailed tits. A steady procession, some stopping off for a quick feed, others keeping to hedgelines, little contact calls filtering through the window. There have been other visitors to the garden – chiffchaffs, willow warblers, lesser whitethroats – often juveniles in very dapper plumage. It has taken some patience to identify them – leg colour, eye stripe, eye ring – I check through the key features. They spend most of their time in a giant Hebe bush, its raspberry flowers spilling petals like confetti, hovered over by bees.
This movement of birds between the seasons brings to mind other migrations, migrations of people. The world seems to be on the move.
Walk past any tree covered in ivy and the humming note will make you pause. Yellow green domes of flowers, so easy to overlook, are laden with insects feeding on late flowering blooms. There is a sense of urgency. Jays screech through the oak trees carrying a cargo of acorns, birds fatten on blackberries, wood mice hoard the hazel nuts before I can collect them and squirrels are searching for walnuts. Have you watched a squirrel at work? He digs a neat hole in which to conceal the walnut, from which he has already stripped the green husk. Then he back fills with soil and using both little paws, pats and pats away to secure his larder.
In the mornings the stubble fields are netted with silver and the orb spiders’ ornate webs, slung between seed heads of thistle, sparkle with dew. Thin spindly spiders hang out in the bedroom stretching their hammock nets across the ceiling and feasting on the large house spiders that come looking for warmth and a mate.
September was made for artists. The colours, the contrasts, the movement of birds, the feeling of fullness and maturing. Whether you paint with a brush or with words it is a month to go out and be inspired.
September – A Harvest of Spiders
The moon sulks, full and yellow,
over the harvest fields. In its weak
light the combines race across
wheat. The pulse of cutter bars’
rhythmic turning vibrates through
the land and busies my heartbeat.
At intervals the chamber-full signal
beeps to call the tractor, feeding
alongside like a whale and its calf.
They roar on the road to grain bins,
pushing on as the moon slips
its berth, foreshadowing rain.
Now morning lays the harvest dust
in a cloak of mist. Phosphorescing
over the stubbles, spiders have set
their nets or crafted pitfall traps.
Wrinkling their way into houses,
through crevices, looking for love
spiders live in the shadows until
low sun plucks their spinning
threads as they move unseen or
emerge, helping Robert the Bruce,
hanging over Miss Muffet, or guarding
the sacred mountain in secret realms.