Thursday, June 25, 2009

theme thursday - summer

One of my favourite books is Cider with Rosie by Laurie Lee (published in the US with the title The Edge of Day) and it contains a most wonderful description of summer.

The day Rosie Burdock decided to take me in hand was a motionless day of summer, creamy, hazy and amber-coloured, with the beech trees standing in heavy sunlight as though clogged with wild honey. It was the time of haymaking, so when we came out of school, Jack and I went to the farm to help.

The whirr of the mower met us across the stubble, rabbits jumped like firecrackers about the fields, and the hay smelt crisp and sweet. The farmer's men were all hard at work, raking, turning and loading. Tall, whiskered fellows forked the grass, their chests like bramble patches. The air swung with their forks and the swathes took wing and rose like eagles to the tops of the wagons. The farmer gave us a short fork each and we both pitched in with the rest.

I stumbled on Rosie behind a haycock, and she grinned up at me with the sly, glittering eyes of her mother. She wore her tartan frock and cheap brass necklace, and her bare legs were brown with hay dust.

"Get out a there," I said. "Go on."

Rosie had grown and was hefty now and I was terrified of her. In her catlike eyes and curling mouth I saw unnatural wisdoms more threatening than anything I could imagine. The last time we'd met I'd hit her with a cabbage stump. She bore me no grudge, just grinned.

"I got summat to show ya," she said.

"You push off," I said.

I felt dry and dripping, icy hot. Her eyes glinted, and I stood rooted. Her face was wrapped in a pulsating haze and her body seemed to flicker with lightning.

"You thirsty?" she said.

"I ain't, so there."

"You be," she said. "C'mon."

So I stuck the fork into the ringing ground and followed her, like doom. We went a long way, to the bottom of the field, where a wagon stood half-loaded. Festoons of untrimmed grass hung down like curtains all around it. We crawled underneath, between the wheels, into a herb-scented cave of darkness. Rosie scratched about, turned over a sack, and revealed a stone jar of cider.

"It's cider," she said. "You ain't to drink it though. Not much of it, any rate."

Huge and squat, the jar lay on the grass like an unexploded bomb. We lifted it up, unscrewed the stopper, and smelt the whiff of fermented apples. I held the jar to my mouth and rolled my eyes sideways, like a beast at a waterhole. "Go on," said Rosie. I took a deep breath.

Never to be forgotten, that first long secret drink of golden fire, juice of those valleys and of that time, wine of wild orchards, of russet summer, of plump red apples and Rosie's burning cheeks. Never to be forgotten, or ever tasted again.

I put down the jar with a gulp and a gasp. Then I turned to look at Rosie. She was yellow and dusty with buttercups and seemed to be purring in the gloom; her hair was rich as a wild bee's nest and her eyes were full of stings. I did not know what to do about her, nor did I know what not to do. She looked smooth and precious, a thing of unplumbable mysteries, and perilous as quicksand.

"Rosie . . ." I said, on my knees, and shaking.

She crawled with a rustle of grass towards me quick and superbly assured. Her hand in mine was like a small wet flame which I could neither hold nor throw away. Then Rosie, with a remorseless, reedy strength, pulled me down from my tottering perch, pulled me down, down into her wide green smile and into the deep subaqueous grass.


The Silver Fox said...

Fine story, indeed. And I liked the photos, as well!

Brian Miller said...

will have to check that one out as i am not familiar. enjoyed the story and the pic of the fence....ahhh.

Wings said...

Beautiful story, thanks so much for sharing. Like the pic, too. :)

Anonymous said...

Wow!! Must find this book!

California Girl said...

magnificent photo at the top of the post.

Pat @ Mille Fiori Favoriti said...

Such rich and descriptive writing..something to be savored slowly and deliciously. I shall put this book on my library list.
Wonderful summer post!

Anonymous said...

This looks a little long, so before I forget, I wanna compliment you on that top photo. The green rolling field leading out of shadow into sunlight, topped by trees across the horizon, surmounted by hazy blue sky with light fluffy clouds.
Love the color combo.
Looks like a perfect summer day.

You took this pic? You know what is in those fields?

OK. Now I'm gonna go read the post.:-)

Anonymous said...

Well! That was very summery indeed, and in fact, not long enough! That rascal Rosie! ;-) I believe I'll put that book on my list.

And the photos are perfect frames for the story.


PS: I think I figured out, my first instinct was right. The top pic shows a hay field, yes?

Roy said...

Ayuh! Last Fall's cider allowed to ferment for a while. It does have a kick! And it does kinda cause your knees to wobble a bit. A nice tale, Betty!

Kate Hanley said...

My first time here, loved the description from the book. Really liked the "motionless day of summer" it captured it so well.

Betty said...

Thank you. I'm so glad you enjoyed the writing. I first read Cider with Rosie when I was about 12, and have loved it ever since. The first couple of times I read the book, I probably didn't have a clue what the encounter with Rosie implied and I think that's part of the beauty of the writing, Lee always allows you to use your imagination.
Since I posted this, I've been trying to find my original copy of the book, which I've had for nearly 40 years. No success, so either one of my daughters has appropriated it, or it's fallen to pieces. Hope it's the former!

The photos were taken near Banbury in Oxfordshire, where my older daughter lives, which is about 40 miles from the village where Lee grew up.

A. Decker - I'm pretty sure that the crop growing in the first photo is wheat, but I'm not certain. Next time we're there, I'll check!

Roy, cider in England is [i]always[/i] fermented and the alcohol content can, indeed, be surprisingly high. I've had stuff with a kick like a mule! :D

lettuce said...

wonderful, thanks - I've not read Cider with Rosie since I was at school, I must search it out again.