Writer: Stephen Rutt
Publishing House: Elliott & Thompson
Date of Publication: July 1st 2021
Rating: 5 stars
‘’You could walk into a wood on a summer’s day, pretty and green, and not know a thing was wrong if you didn’t know the signs to look for. And nowhere is that gap between appearance and reality more apparent than with climate change – the great invisible force holding the world to ransom.’’
Stephen Rutt takes us on a journey in the heart of the peculiar, absurd summer of 2020, in a world that seems to have lost its footing. Sonnet 18 and Orwell’s thoughts welcome us and then we’re in for the unique experience of witnessing the changes of the British summer in a time when we are still unable to travel to the UK (even though we are fully vaccinated but whatever…). A time when Nature rings every alarm possible. You will find no better guide than Stephen Rutt.
‘’Light is like time. It is always changing but the pace is too slow to notice until suddenly, one evening it is light when you leave work, or one morning, you wake up with day leaking in at the curtain’s edge. It is there, unlike yesterday. And you realise with a jolt of surprise- is that the time of the year?’’
Even though I live in the centre of Athens, my neighbourhood still retains old houses and trees and small parks. I work in the northern suburbs of the capital where Nature is very much present, thank God, and the changing of the seasons is there in all its glory every year. But working from home for a year and a half (with small intervals) deprived me of those moments when the cherry trees start blossoming and the afternoons become longer, sweeter. Summer came rather late in Greece this year which makes Stephen’s observations even more relatable. Easter week was rainy, May was almost cold and the first days of June were chilly. We’re currently going through a massive heatwave (41+ in certain parts of the country) while news of the tornado in Moravia has shocked us all. Learning about the changing of the seasons, from their early ‘’establishment’’ to the way we perceive them now and the research on phenology has never felt more urgent. And the virus is no excuse for ignorance or indifference.
‘’We must not lose sight of the present while worrying about the future.’’
Let us wander in the heart of Cornwall on a day when the land became white due to a wondrous snowstorm. Let us find a path in a forest in Bedfordshire and travel (virtually as most of us have done these past months) to the Wood of Cree in Scotland. Let us visit marshes, the moors of Galloway, lochs and castles, echoing Robert Burns’ poetry and laments.
Let us watch for dragonflies and nightjars, for owls (always special to me being an Athenian and all…), let us listen for corn buntings and skylarks, for cuckoos and rooks. See? A small pearl-bordered fritillary, a Scotch argus, a bat released into the wild, healed by loving people. Every gift of Nature is here. And what do we do?
The summer solstice has already passed. We sit on our porches and balconies, enjoying the peaceful summer nights – heatwave or no heatwave- the cares of winter places in a tiny, locked box somewhere in our minds. And we think that all is well. But it only takes a birding scope (in a beautiful story narrated by Stephen) to understand how tiny we are and what great problems we are constantly creating for Mother Earth.
This book is a superbly beautiful ode to the soul of the woodland in summer and a mighty alert to finally reconsider and do our duty.
*I LOVED the references to Gainsborough’s Mr and Mrs Andrews, one of my favourite paintings, and John Buchan’s The Thirty- Nine Steps. *
‘’Everything is now a warning: things out of order or things passing as normal that betray how far from normal we have strayed. Perhaps the eternal summer of Shakespeare’s compliment has become the curse of our future.’’
Many thanks to Stephen Rutt, Alison Menzies and Elliott & Thompson for the ARC in exchange for an honest review.