July is already coming to an end, but only now am I having a sense that summer has truly arrived. Bright sun and scorching heat during the day, and, at night, turquoise skies and the chirp, chirp, chirp of a cricket in the grass. I feel like doing nothing at all except for perhaps lying on a deck chair under my favourite tree half asleep whilst listening to Prélude à l’après-midi d’un faune, on a loop. That’s my sort of heavenly bliss. This year, I will have the whole of August to indulge myself!
Actually, I cannot remember when I last took an extended holiday over the summer months… Most likely, when I was still at school… many, many, many years ago. More recently, I have developed the habit of taking longer breaks in winter, when, like a bird, I would migrate to a warmer climate. However, as traveling to faraway lands is out of bounds for now, I do my best to soak up as much solar energy and light as I can locally, in my back garden or on the English coast. When doing so, my thoughts instantly go to the summers of my childhood. Or is this is because of my advancing age, I wonder? Seaside, dunes, sand, just like those in the photograph I picked for the main page of this Summer Edition of the newsletter. My choice of poem to accompany it, When we got to the beach by Hollie McNish, from Plum (McNish, 2017), a candid, sometimes rude collection, reminds me of my carefree childhood summers too. Screaming, laughing, splashing water, making angels in the sand….
Below is another poem about summer, this time by a contemporary French poet and artist Pascalle Monnier, who I find particularly engaging; her words akin to a touch, stimulate my senses. I want to share the whole of her poem L’Été with you. Her words, the rhythm of the poem, the spacing between the lines, is likely to evoke the feel of summer in your whole body, no matter what season it actually is. I invite you to experiment and see what happens!
Summer by Pascalle Monnier
Good, it’s hot.
You get the picture: windows wide open, the first flies and, in the background, motorcycle
noise and a warm wind tipped with cold, the cool smells and not quite summer
(fresh-cut grass, dogs exhausted in the heat, sun-tan lotion, oil stains, broiling pizza).
Mouth against mouth, legs intertwined, arms interlaced, hands embraced, tongues soft
(‘we make, at this moment, my love, don’t you see, just one just one just one!!!’ in other
words: cry of despair, delight, desire).
You get the picture.
These are the first fine days.
The first fine days.
The fine days have returned.
The trees will slowly be covered with leaves.
The trees will grow black, carbonize before your eyes.
The light will be white. The trees will be black against the white of the light.
Red flowers will spring from the earth.
The grass will be green, then gold.
In the morning, the sky will be so blue, so white at noon, so blue toward dusk
and black, black!!! at night.
The air will get heavier, grow very heavy, very slow and only lazily move.
And so the branches will move slowly,
To slow down.
The slowing down.
They slow down
We walk so slowly.
The air will be sweet, damp, heavy.
A great weight.
An arm will rise only slowly, rarely.
The shadows around us will shift.
They will be big and very black.
We’ll be surrounded by our shadows.
Escorted by our shadows.
In the mornings, the shadow around the tree will be small and bright,
evenings, great and dark.
The tree will cast shade.
When the branches sway, they will shift the shadows of the branches.
The air will be hard, heavy, slow and the scents around us will float.
We’ll barely be moving.
The branches that sway and sweep through the shadows.
The bright shadow of morning and black shadow of evening.
Mornings, the sky will be blue, white at noon, then again blue, then black,
The trees too will be black.
There will be no more green.
Red flowers will spring from the soil.
No more softness, no more scent, slowness.
Another delightful childhood memory of mine relating to the summer months is flashes of fireflies on a warm night in July and August, in Poland. I know that fireflies exist in the UK, as I have seen much written about them. Unfortunately, I haven’t seen any. I saw many flashing bugs in India and Africa, but they were much bigger in size than the insects I remember from my childhood. Have you seen them? Many children would chase after them. I was different. I would stay still, completely captivated by the spectacle I witnessing. I remember how special these moments felt. There was something spiritual about them, these twinkling greenish or yellowish glows in the grass and amongst the trees. Then, Whoosh!, and all the lights would rise up together into the black sky above our heads, like a fluorescent cloud. It was pure magic!
I have not experienced anything like the sight of those fireflies since my early childhood, when we would stay in our summer house, deep in the forest. What I hear is that over the years, due to pollution, deforestation and drier summers, the population of fireflies has severely declined. However, another summer spectacle, which I clearly recall witnessing in my early years in nature, continues to occur with a remarkable regularity today. I experienced this only a few days ago in my own kitchen, which was rather disturbing! I am talking about the nuptial flight of winged ants. There is a great poem about this natural phenomenon in Richard Osmond’s Costa Poetry Award shortlisted debut collection, Useful Verses. The poet, a professional forager, has a deep knowledge of flora and fauna as they appear in both natural and human history. He is very skilled in his depiction, which uses a wholly contemporary lens.
Love Song, 31st July by Richard Osmond
Today the queen ant and her lovers
took their nuptial flight, scattering
upwards like a handful of cracked
black peppercorns thrown in the face
of a bear, the bear being in this case
a simile for the population of Lewisham
and Hither Green.
There is an increasingly common assertion
online that the winged of every ant nest
in Britain take off on the same bright
morning. This says less about ants than it does
about the state of media in which we place
ourselves: connected enough to hear
and repeat all claims and verify some,
yet prone to confirmation bias
owing to algorithms which favour
new expressions of that which we already
hold to be true.
Myth moves in step with commerce.
When merchant ships arrived
once per season from the Orient
they brought silk and saffron and stories
of dog-sized ants which mined gold
and took to the sky only to defend
their treasure from camel-riding
thieves. Now we receive the exotic
via fibre optics as a stream of
high frequency trades.
My love, I can’t speak with authority
on commodity futures, the wonders of the east
and the behaviour of insects in Liverpool
and Tunbridge Wells or any city
outside my directly observable reality,
but it’s flying ant day in my heart
if nowhere else.
What a great poem it is. The last thing I want to share with you is the picture of my resident hedgehog, which emerges from his hideout each summer. So here he is.
Over the past two years however, he has introduced us to his mate. Their noisy frolicking and shovelling at night has been keeping us awake with regularity since early summer. I was fortunate to take a snap of both of them, only the other night!
I am not sure how this editorial will read this time… I think summer has gone to my head – a Midsummer intoxication of sorts!
However, before I completely lose my mind and either get overexcited by the summer party that I see all around me, or just switch off in my deckchair, I had better introduce you to the current Summer Edition of the UKAGP Newsletter. This issue is truly fabulous! We have received a record number of responses to the last Call for Submissions. It seems as if issues of gender and sexual diversity, as well as the collaboration between gestalt therapists and the LGBTQ+ community has struck a chord with our readers. This theme continues in the current issue. It has been picked up by Malcolm Parlett, by colleagues from Poland, Pixie Frączek, Wiola Jaworska, Dominika Struzik, Ula Krasny, and also Tomek Trabuć. Thank you for sharing your intimate stories. However, these are not the only personal pieces of writing that we received. In fact there are many more, such as Dan Bloom’s piece on working remotely in the pandemic and Raksha Sidhu’s touching piece on menstruation that is as personal as it is political. Thank you also Kay Lynn for reminding us of the recent death of magnificent American dance artist Anna Halprin and her connection with gestalt. And finally, we received lovely postcards sent to us by Vikram Kolmannskog and Nika Jelendorf, as well as a photo and poem by Tanis Taylor. Thank you very much guys!
And as for readers of our newsletter, I wish you all a jolly, rich and stimulating experience as you read through our Summer Edition.
Before I stop, I want to share another photograph of a seaside beach, this time near Aldeburgh in Suffolk – an area I am planning to get to know better during my summer break in August. This is the location of the sculpture by locally-born artist Maggi Hambling, fondly known as Scallop, but that is described by its creator as ‘a conversation with the sea’. It is a four metre high monument to the late composer and past Aldeburgh resident, Benjamin Britten. He used to take his afternoon walk along the beach. The sculpture consists of two, broken, interlocking scallop shells. Cut into the rim of the upright shell are the words ‘I hear those voices that will not be drowned’ from Britten’s opera Peter Grimes. This seems particularly pertinent for this issue of our summer newsletter.
I also want to invite you and encourage you, yet again, to stay connected with us. Please feel free to email any reactions and responses you have to the content of this issue. As always, we eagerly await your own contributions: articles, essays, poetry, as well as any form of artwork and photos. All contributions to the UKAGP Newsletter can be sent to [email protected].
To ensure their inclusion in our autumn edition, please email us by the next deadline of 9th October 2021. We look forward to hearing from you.
With warm wishes,