August Morning

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Grouse hang cooling in the yard with a loop of twine around their throats. I chew upon the next move. There’s no reason for the changing seasons to fixate me like this, but we’re sliding now and the evidence is scrawled across miles of sky and open country, clear as day.

I fell to bed, and I began to recall the descent of summer in previous years, listing the signs and markers. In the final moments before sleep, I drew a mental image of an August morning, and I woke to find it expressed with such blinding accuracy that it might have been the mockery of a dream.

Mist had taken shape overnight. It leaned on the windows and drew dew to the webs and the cob eggs which lie bundled in the frame corners like pillows. I walked through the close and down to the river in my pyjamas, trailing my boots in the sodden grass and leaving tracks behind me. This sun is thin and tired; it’s been a long summer after all – a nightless span of cotton and tall cloud, enough to exhaust anyone. The light was creamy and dull without heat, and a fox ran beyond me in the tall grass, red as a rowan.

And there were mushrooms in the dawn. Their gills were frilled and pink, so I picked one and ate her, and was flooded with the smell of sweet decay. Then geese began to squall on the stubble fields below the house; tough, autumnal greylags from the shore and the high hill lochs. A confetti of homeless birds thrilled through the thorn trees and checked on the ripening fruit. Haws and brambles swelled in secret.

Every pre-seen sight and sound was ticked off and confirmed as I turned back for the house and saw it square and dull against the sunrise. No smoke from the chimneys yet, but how much longer can I keep the matches in their box?

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