July is restless, rushing, full of people and parties and movement. It shifts in golden and grey, streaked with sunlit shadows; shifting smiles and shifting sighs, shifting curtains by an open window, stirred by gusts of summer breeze. The world lies verdantly green beneath a fathomless, inky bowl of sky that crackles with summer storms.
I learned a new word this week; petrichor, the smell of the earth after it rains, and that’s exactly how this summer smells. A clean, earthy smell, slightly metallic; the blood of Greek gods spilled over stoney ground.
A month of shifting moods too, changing as swiftly as the weather turns. We shouldn’t talk about the weather, it means that you have nothing interesting to say; but honestly, the weather here is such a dramatic personality that it forces itself into conversation regardless, a child-like dictator who influences smiles with a sunbeam and wreaks misery with days of endless, drizzling grey.
One morning I have a moment when I think I am on the wrong train, and a second of panic jolts through my stomach before I realise that I wouldn’t care if I was. I imagine staying on until the end of the line, wherever that may be, and stepping off onto an empty platform somewhere surrounded by lonely fields and farms, a scattering of wildflowers like a rash of colour under a soft grey sky that swells smugly with the threat of rain. In the distance, the stormy roiling foam of the North Sea heaves blackly, and I am completely alone.
Rikki turned 30 at the beginning of July, reluctantly, dragging his heels and belying the adult he now undoubtably is with cake and cider. We string the garden with bunting and lanterns, and fill a huge 8 litre glass jar with ‘dark and stormy’ punch – a spreading warmth of fiery rum shot with a fresh bite of lime juice, the perfect drink for this turbulent summer month. People crowd into our tiny garden, filling it with laughter and passing around plates of juicy, charred jerk chicken, until everyone is far too drunk to cook and the barbecue is left to glowing embers as the night sets in, and I light candles that hang softly in the trees.
The following weekend we are in Germany, driving our rental car over impossibly smooth German roads through the Black Forest. We buy fat purple cherries from stands at the roadside and stuff them in our mouths, juice running down our wrists; we paddle in mountain lakes and try and camp in a tiny two man tent and get hopelessly lost navigating with a 10 year old map with no English translation. We are travelling again, and everything is funny and agreeable because we are where we belong. One afternoon Rikki takes his eyes off the road long enough say ‘you know, I think I love you more when we are traveling’. A tiny needle to the heart, but in a moment I understand what he means. I tell him that that’s because I am myself when I’m travelling, and he loves the truest part of me.
There are so many more tiny moments of beauty in this month – the French cheeseboard at my Grandpa’s 80th birthday, cheeses that are creamy or salty or veined with bitter blue all piled together; and the light in the garden the next day as we sit in deck chairs beneath the trees, laughing away our hangovers with mugs of tea. The sound of my best friend’s baby girl laughing. Booking flights for next year, and marking a definite date on the calendar. The beautiful colouring book I bought. The smell of espresso and toast drifting up the stairs on a Saturday morning, and the way steam rises from my cup in the sunlight that streams through the kitchen window. Small moments, and plans for big adventures; and even when it rains, lots to be grateful for.