Sunday, 23 September 2012

Autumn Equinox

Autumn Equinox, Second Harvest, Mabon, the Holly King gaining strength as the Oak King weakens.  I like to mark the eight festivals of the wheel of the year, even if I don't always do anything significant.  This year, I feel more aware than usual of the changing season.  Perhaps I'm just feeling the cold more after coming back from Cyprus.  There's a difference in the air, the light has changed and it's getting darker noticeably earlier.
I haven't grown any veg this year, so I've nothing to harvest, which feels all wrong.
There were a couple of fine days (though not warm enough to dry the washing!) and cold nights, with our first frost on the equinox. Although I usually connect this time of year with harvested produce, and the warm and muted colours of turning leaves and earth, this year I felt compelled to go to a beach and make the most of the equinoctal spring tides to do some beach combing. I was looking for tusk shells Antalis entalis and saddle oyster shells Anomia ephippium as well as my usual search for sea-worn glass and other interesting shells and pebbles which could be used for jewellery.
I went to Tenby, and walked along South Beach to St Catherine's island, where the caves often collect interesting bits, but this time it was as if they had been scoured clean.  Thinking I saw a tusk shell between two stones, I picked it up.  On closer examination, it was a fossil molar tooth!  Not human, but I would need expert help to find out which animal it's from.


Walking back along the intertidal sand, I found a few tusk shells, as well as a lovely saddle oyster which gleamed with black and green iridescence in the low sun.  I also found some sort of spiny cockle shell, Acanthocardia echinata (at a guess), a scallop Chlamys varia, and still-joined rayed trough shell Macrtra stultorum and Faroe sunset shell Gari fervensis.

Caldey Island looked peaceful in the late afternoon sun.

As the sun went down, a crescent moon showed above the gap between Giltar Point and Caldey Island.

The following day I went down to Pendine, hoping to find some large otter shells Lutraria lutraria.  There were a few broken ones, along with some banded wedge shells Donax vittatus and a number of razor shells. The rocks and rock pools at the western end of the beach hadn't trapped much of interest, even for a few jackdaws, who complained to each other before flying off. A jersey polo-neck, scarf and fleece were not enough to stop a chilly easterly wind triggering my cold urticaria, so I trudged back to the car.

Driving back, I paused on the road down into Whitland to take pictures of the sunset. Lights were coming on in Narberth under the red sky with an inky streak of cloud.  As I neared home, a Tawny owl floated over the road, a dark shape against the dark blue sky.

A little still life to mark the season: my beach-combed shells, including some mussels, the inky blue contrasting with the mother of pearl; multicoloured  flat winkles Littorina littoralis; a small squash and apples, a chrysanthemum flower, which fell out of the bunch I bought as a treat to myself, and night lights for the nights which are drawing in.

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