September 09, 2012

St Martin's Summer

September and a last, welcome blast of heat: 28 degrees today. It was the same last year, if a little later in the month: we went to Sissinghurst in temperatures above 30. In Britain we call it an 'Indian Summer', although long before colonial days it was known, as it still is across Europe, as 'St Martin's Summer'.

We went to Morden Hall Park to make the most of it. The grass has been mown making it look more like the deer park it once was, vistas of green opening up between stately trees. In a shallow part of the river, where our dog plunged joyfully about after sticks, common darter dragonflies hung above the water, shafts of sun illuminating them and turning their red bodies golden. One pair were mating, the male embracing the female as she swooped to deposit single eggs onto the pool's meniscus with her ovipositor, one after another after another: tap, tap, tap.

As we moved on, a pair of kingfishers saw their chance and flew upstream, low over the water: two bolts of blue passing through sun and shade. It made me think, of course, of Hopkins:

As kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame;
As tumbled over rim in roundy wells
Stones ring; like each tucked string tells, each hung bell's
Bow swung finds tongue to fling out broad its name;
Each mortal thing does one thing and the same:
Deals out that being indoors each one dwells;
Selves — goes itself; myself it speaks and spells,
Crying What I do is me: for that I came.

Myself it speaks and spells: quite. Too often we ask what nature is 'for', or try to define it in relation to us, or, as is the current vogue, put a value on it. But living things aren't 'for' anything, and any value to us, while congenial, is incidental; the argument from utility is obscene.