If I were to describe my most idyllic summer scene it would have to include sweeping meadows of rich green grass, dotted with dandelions, buttercups and daisies (perhaps a clover or two), the sound of doves, the damp scent of soil and meths from a roaring Primus stove, the song of a sky-lark singing under pillowed clouds, and, most importantly of all, a large Weeping Willow tree beside a gently flowing river. I have a real fondness for this tree. Perhaps it is because we had one in the garden when I was lad. It stood beside the pond and from time to time, I would grab a handful its slender branches and use it to swing out over the pond below.
Most people tend to encounter spiders indoors rather than outside. However, sit on a piece of grass for even a short length of time and you will soon see this, tiny and often overlooked, scurrying figure. Dewy late summer mornings, when the sun is still low, or frosty autumn and winter days can provide us with a wonderful display of webs that show how abundant and prolific this creature is. Sunrise can turn some meadows into fields of shimmering silver.
Today’s post is a little bit of a cheat. But I really like goats (they are one of my research topics) and, although I know we don’t really have any wild goats left in the UK, I feel slightly vindicated by a news report covered by the BBC in March this year announcing that ‘Wild goats flock to Llandudno in bad weather‘!
Goats, along with sheep, have long been a part of human culture and economy and therefore also an intrinsic part of the human landscape (for a brief readable overview see Borowski, 1994 or Sasson, 2014). Encountering their rugged form on some bleak wilderness scarp can give us a very real impression of wildness and freedom, even though they are in fact indicators of the exact opposite. Nevertheless, I have enjoyed many a packed lunch on some windswept Welsh mountainside sharing Marmite sandwiches with a feral goat or two.
Nettle – חָרוּל (charul), סִרְפָּד (sirpad) and possibly קִמּוֹשׂ (qimmos)
Over the years my attitude to nettles has changed. As a lad, they were ubiquitous, lurking menaces that, no matter what I did to avoid them, inevitably stung me and sent me racing to find a nearby dock leaf. Moreover, they were found in areas that I tended to associate with the least conducive for play; those boggy, shadowy, overgrown areas, thick with snail and slug slime. In those days they were just ‘stingers’ and the places they were found were the strange and dank-smelling ‘stingers patch.’ However, more recently, I have grown more and more attracted to these places and, particularly on hot, dry days, actively seek out these proud plants with their delicate, understated flower heads, and their heady, fresh scent. When so much is appearing to struggle for life, it is good to find something that celebrates its hardiness and its tenacious and spiky hold on life.