The dreaded moment has come! Clocks have gone back. An extra hour of light in the morning when I am still sleeping while others are rising with the sun. It used to be said that the extra hour of morning light was to enable cows to be milked at a suitable time – to suit cows or commerce? Autumn mornings have a dew-laden, milky light imbued with an almost ghostly, misty quietude. No birdsong. No insect life. No butterflies except for the Red Admiral that obstinately haunts my house, despite my frequent efforts to release it, or its progeny, into the garden. Its insect will combat my human one. It wins. It will return to incubate here, or more correctly, its descendent in whatever form, certainly will. Insects can be strangely ominous. I recall some years ago in Tuscany the pencil-shaped cypresses planted alongside roads were threatened by a pernicious, dreaded ‘processionary’ worm. I remember seeing hundreds of them, nose to tail, processing down the drive towards an umbrella pine that I had planted ten years earlier. The pine or the processionary grubs? The pine is still flourishing.
It is strange that the Elizabethan cult of melancholy as a desirable state of mind was considered to lead to inner serenity and a disposition to be in love, as depicted in the numerous miniatures by Nicholas Hilliard or Isaac Oliver in the early 1600s. Melancholy pervades the late, serenely beautiful plays Shakespeare wrote in those years; they do evoke hope particularly through the figures of young women: Imogen and Miranda, Cordelia and Desdemona, Jessica and Celia. Only the name of Desdemona is rarely given to a baby, for fear of inflicting her tragic fate.
As I write, world leaders meet in Glasgow amid growing, universal clamour. There is a certain weary sadness about it all. The arch-polluters, China and Russia, did not send theirs. These issues happen to be threaded through my recently published book ‘Mastering the Sun’. If you have read it and think it is relevant, then please recommend it to others. If not, do look it up on Amazon.