The dog days of summer are by reputation hot, sultry and ill-aspected. As high summer becomes late summer, we can fall out of love with the season. We may find ourselves less comfortable than we would like to be, on the edge of storms that may or may not break. Nature can seem rank and overblown. Insect life is busy, in ways not always to our taste.
Yesterday I walked on the banks of our local canal between Stroud and Brimscombe. I had not done this walk since early March. At the height of the Covid crisis, I decided to leave the narrow towpath alone. For a long stretch of time through spring and summer this section of canal and I have gone our separate ways. It was early in the morning and not especially hot. The canal itself gave me my dog days feeling. What I noticed was a wild, rank fecundity, not conventionally photogenic. It is as if the space were resisting the (interrupted) attempts to make it navigable once again, sustainably beneficial to us. A different ecology had established itself. In my feelings, and imagination, the ‘dog days’ energy became a counterpoint to convenience conservation.
I like convenience, and I like walking on the towpath. I respect the restoration project, and the volunteers who are making it happen. I also respect the ever-renewing power of nature. I look at the picture below, where evidence of canal can barely be seen – just a suggestion on the far bank. I reflect that this stretch of water was once deep and wide enough for trows, traditional canal boats used on the Severn and Wye rivers. Brimscombe Port was as far east as they could go. The canal going on to Lechlade had a narrower gauge, and cargo had to be transferred to Thames barges. That early industrial world has long gone. The new development, whilst making inroads, has not yet ocupied this space. In the meantime, nature is free to be inconvenient, and to some people doubtless unsightly, whether we like it or not.
Unfortunately rather a lot of conservation does seem to be convenience conservation; something that is mostly geared towards what is good or useful for humans. Other species, if considered at all, come after humans. It’s a short sighted view.
Thanks Julie. I agree.
Yeah lots of things on the turn… I’m saying this as I push my mint tea aside with the mint just having flowered and starting to be on the rank side…
“All ripes and rots” (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight)
I regularly have disagreements with conservationists on their ideas to ‘manage’ nature and particularly re-wilding which I really feel uncomfortable about. I live in a pretty wild area – I was only musing yesterday in the oak woodland here how different these slow growing northern oaks are – not pruned into conformity as in the South of England but here twisted and ever one a different Form – they really exhibit different personalities. We even name them so we know which we are talking about. So yes… my experience of the dog days of the south are the nearest to this wildness – when nature works faster than man…
Thanks for this comment, and for sharing your experience of the northern oaks and quality of relationship with them.