Deep May

Words by:
Maxim Griffin
Featured in:
June 2023

By Maxim Griffin.

Everything coming up green and rampant – the cow parsley is already chest high – young nettles gain their sting – the bunting is up, most places – been a bit of a month – illness and injury – the finger still hurts and the splint gets in the way of pens and brushes – the trick, of course, is not minding that it hurts.

Out near the water – tributaries, pools – lunchtime warm, summery almost – making for the sea along overgrown tracks – the tower without a church is swamped, choking in buddleia, an old grave with new flowers in a new aluminium pot – a magpie inspects.

The fields of oilseed are full-tilt yellow, beyond yellow – Van Gogh would be impressed – the official flag of Lincolnshire begins to make sense – a world of yellow oblongs beyond the hedge division and the sky out west – enormous, looming far.

Heat of the coast road – wobbling tarmac left and right – the old Ship Inn still standing despite the slow explosion of ash trees from within – lone bungalows with small horses, static caravans, electric wire, flags up – the pace of turbines quickening – on east, the farm track leading to the world of swamps then dunes then beach – old fella loading two wet, ecstatic dogs who come to say hello – good lads, good lads – cuckoo from the thorns down the track – first of the year – another box ticked.

Into the rucksack
The plateaux of sand and mirrors – wet after tide – it’s been rough – debris – coils of blue rope, stranded jellyfish, sticks and blocks turned on the lathe of the ocean – they always look best soaked and bloated – a worn cube of pine with a hole going right through – the ones with holes are the best – accidental

A few flints – small, black flesh – sea polished, good – but not keepers – a lone pebble catches the eye – takes some shifting – the puddle sucks until the sand gives way – oh – a quick wash, shake the silt away – rub it on the knee, pick it with a stick – the pebble reveals a perfect fist-sized ammonite – must have rolled with the sea from Yorkshire where such things are common – a relic from the deep time – have to check, dig a little down into the evolutionary scale of things – the Cretaceous period is a long time to sort through – in the rucksack it goes, clanging the steel flask of coffee – yes, time for a brew – pouring one out before the next steps to take in the panorama – a hot slurp while judging the sky.

Storms approaching
Thunder – big thunder – that western sky has advanced – black and blue – a scree falling hard over the hills – another peal as the pressure drops – the sudden feel of sinking air – the chill before hard rain – while being struck by lighting on the intertidal sound would make for a good last line in an obituary, perhaps in land and shelter is best – an organised retreat.

Back on the green tracks the atmosphere has descended – storm heads now advance – flashes to the south west – the old gods are having their say and it is getting loud – parting nettles and dandelions quick, leaving a wake of seeds in the air – boom – counting the voice of the approaching squall – 17 seconds of continuous rumble, then – crack – a root system of electricity fires parallel to the land – uh oh – shelter is a matter of urgency – get moving.

The storm is in no rush – cavernous quakes and ripples linger – storm as re-enactment of glacial progress – still to the south and west – lightning every third step – the stings don’t matter, the broken finger aches – an avalanche of rain falling as a wall two miles left – the sky above is clear – lurching sunbeams scan yellow fields – a lime green oak illuminated against the slow black fury.

Constant thunder and sagging mammatus clouds – this green track is just on the edge of it all – a little red brick bridge crosses a swollen, reed thick ditch – two ducks below the arch seem to have the correct idea – a few giant warm raindrops plop into the surface of the ditch water – brown ripples and quacking.

The storm shifts gear – proper malice – thunder that you feel from the ground up – thunder you taste in your marrow – the kind of clouds stars are born from in all their infant fury and radiance – it is sublime and frankly, a bit dicey. Need cover – something solid, something nonconductive – a pillbox would be good – there’s a small brick barn in the corner of the next yellow field – this would mean making a break for it – a river delta of electricity splatters west to east and is followed by a volley of thunder that seems to swallow the whole sky – pure bass – heavier than a Sunn O))) recording – there’s another crack – the definite sound of explosion – a strike – and the thunder keeps rolling.

Making tracks west as the storm lurches east and out to sea – the thunder still very much present but away now – rain begins proper – having had a recent clear out of the rucksack, there is no cagoule – plenty of flints, the ammonite, a box of cheese and pickle sarnies, but no waterproof – ah well – hunker down, it’ll pass.

The sun comes out – the thunderheads way out at sea – the nettles and cow parsley seem to have grown in the last hour – green, fresher and greater than before – properly verdant – a familiar whistling scream loops above – ah – the first swift of the year has returned – they winter in central Africa and fly back in one breath – the signal that spring is turning into summer – the swift twists and rolls out across yellow fields – nice to have you back lads.

Another low sequence of rumbles – another division of thunderheads ascending across the hills – the broken finger begins to throb – the storm that follows is ten times more powerful than the last as more swifts arrive across the screaming, electric sky.
May is the best month…

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