Autumn has arrived

After weeks of afternoon storms, the grass has started growing again. It is astonishing. Confused spring flowers pop up everywhere. Then the storms suddenly cease giving way to cloudless days. Mowing the unexpected grass on a stormless Saturday sets up a billowing cloud of dust. Momentarily it is reminiscent of the serene, drifting mists that now typify the otherwise listless hour after sunrise.

early autumnal mowing

This autumn will bring disappointments. The vines have been thrashed by the August thunderstorms and after so much rain the grapes have shrivelled. No rich red plonk this year. No olive oil either. The February frost has left the trees with a scarecrow halo of dead branches while new shoots have thrust their way through the split branches. The dead ends of the olives are blighted by grotesque knots of fungi.

As if on cue, migratory rollers circle high above, intrigued perhaps by the mowing. Bigger than swallows and far more elegant in flight than starlings, their colourful plumage is lost in the high skies. They chirp loudly in chorus as if permanently thrilled by the sights they are admiring. Always in flocks of a dozen or more, they glide in circles before sailing off towards Africa. Once seldom seen in Umbria, they are annual visitors passing up the Tiber valley in springtime, returning now. Their chirping is an index of the beginning and end of summer.

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