By Elizabeth Howard
April and August, in addition to sharing an "A," are the two months of the year without major holidays. There are no Hallmark cards designed for events during August. Easter does occasionally fall during April, but not always and April can be fickle, catching us off guard with a dusting of snow or a morning chill. August is the most carefree month. It is ours to enjoy. We bask in the warm gentle breezes, long, light-filled days and the sense that the world has, if just for a few hours, slowed down.
Birthdays in our family are in April and August, so we have reasons to celebrate during these months. Saturday evening we celebrated two family birthdays with a barbecue that ended with a decadent chocolate cake served with our favorite pistachio ice cream. It was already dark as we were finishing our dinner but the lights strung around the umbrella and twinkling over the table offered just enough light so we could finish dessert before pulling on sweaters and retreating to the living room.
I had driven to New Hampshire on Saturday across the state of Vermont via Route 9, East. Along the way I noticed canoes and kayaks in the rivers and ponds. Wistfully I watched as these small, quiet vessels seemed to glide through the water. My thoughts turned to Kenneth Grahame's The Wind and the Willows. "The willow-wren was twittering his thin little song, hidden himself in the dark selvedge of the river bank. Though it was past ten o'clock at night, the sky sill clung to and retained some lingering skirts of light from the departed day; and the sullen heats of the torrid afternoon broke up and rolled away at the dispersing touch of the cool fingers of the short midsummer night. ..." My mother, at 95, still enjoys going out in the canoe and my brothers took her canoeing on Saltmarsh Pond Saturday afternoon. They enjoyed lunch sitting on the mossy banks of the pond.
Robert McFarlane, a British writer, is the author of a book that has recently been published in the United States entitled: Landmarks. It is difficult to describe the book, as it is part dictionary, a bibliography of books about nature and landscape and stories of his experiences researching the words. Essentially the book gathers "thousands of words from dozens of languages and dialects for specific aspects of landscape, nature and weather."
What McFarlane is helping the reader, and writers, with is how to write and describe nature. We reach the summit of a mountain, he reminds us, and say, "wow." Not particularly descriptive but the only word that comes to mind.
When I have been canoeing on bogs and ponds in New Hampshire, as dawn is breaking or just at sunset, I have struggled with writing about the experience. The visual experience remains within our mind's eye, it is difficult to capture in words on the page.
We pulled on sweaters Saturday evening, a reminder that August is coming to an end. And even though canoeing and kayaking is possible until the water is impossibly cold it isn't quite the same. Living in a region of lakes we are fortunate to have the summer months to go bumbelling (verb, Shetlandic) around in the water and relaxing on the soft banks along the edge. There is a certain serenity in August.
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