Nature’s Sarabande

Sarabande – A Baroque dance that is said to have come from the Saracens. It is in triple meter, and characteristically the second note of the measure is lengthened, giving the dance a stately, majestic flavor. ~ Artopium


Rudbeckia trilobaThe slow stately dance of summer moving into autumn has begun. Days are growing shorter and nights are growing cooler. Where ten new flowers opened in giddy excess each day in June and July, perhaps one begins flowering every few days in August and September. Change is slow but inexorable, a measured graceful prelude to the fiery finale of autumn’s peak. The soft pinks and lavenders of tall phlox keep the butterflies hovering in their midst; the shocking gold and black of Rudbeckias sing in a harmony of color to the fuzzy bees that crowd around them for late season sustenance. Cooler evenings have triggered rose bloom in every color from magenta to pink to apricot – blue Ageratum and Salvias play a cool counterpoint to the warm tones of rose buds and blossoms as they shift in the slanted sun rays to gather the light. Huge trusses of cream colored hydrangeas hang over the garden paths, richly scented and alive with the bumbling movement of pollinators drunk on their sweet largesse. Even as some plants begin to crumble and fall toward dormancy, others rise up with fresh foliage and flowers for a brief coda of glory before the end of the season.

The August GardenUnderneath the visual feast lies the ostinato drone of cicadas and the antiphonal call of tree frogs at night. A few days ago, after a long day in the hot and noisy city, I returned home and stepped outside into the garden – I suddenly felt as if I were Alice stepping through the looking glass. Heat that was oppressive in the city was merely a warm envelope of air in the garden and the early evening chorus of insects and frogs created a symphonic hall of pulsing sound that replaced the chaotic screech and scratch of traffic and construction. I stood entranced for a moment, watching the bats fly overhead in search of mosquitoes. I looked down to see the twinkle of fireflies rising from the garden floor, in search of a mate to commence the pas de deux of partnership. I had not just stepped into a garden, I had stepped into a magical world, a space where I was privileged to see and hear and smell the intoxication of nature in late summer, performing her multi-dimensional dance of life. Humbled and at peace, I began a slow sarabande through the garden.

But I’m not dancing alone . . . I’m dancing with the forest, dancing with the moon. Kenge, The Forest People (Turnbull)

Listen to Handel’s famous sarabande (trigger the video below) as you view a few garden photos from the August garden. Click on any image to start the show and join me in the “stately, majestic” dance. (All photos ©2014 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved)

And those who were seen dancing were thought to be insane by those who could not hear the music. ~ Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

“Everything in the universe has rhythm. Everything dances.” ~Maya Angelou

For a unique perspective on solo dance and the current phenomenon of recording and sharing one’s dance experience, visit Richard Coyne’s post on Mood and Movement (and dance).


The Sound of the August Garden

It is early evening, and there is just enough light to see as I meander through the garden, a last visit before dark.  Angel Eyes and I wander about, pausing to listen to the insect orchestra from various vantage points. A steady two note drone provides the underlying ostinato, while pointillistic voices of cicadas and crickets spring from every direction in polite succession.  It may be too cool this evening for the tree frog chorus – on a warm night, they are the antiphonal brass and rat-a-tat percussion of this natural orchestra, but tonight it seems to be strings and woodwinds.

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I love living surrounded by trees – my attempts to compose surround sound pieces seem feeble when compared to the robust chorus of our woodlands in August.  I really should be in my studio tonight, working on the fourth movement of a large work called “The Four Elements” – fire, or perhaps Lux Aeterna.  But it is difficult to tear myself away from the amazing concert in the garden.  So . . .  I pour myself a modest glass of wine and surrender to nature’s concert once again – Angel and I go out onto the deck for a final listening session.

The late August garden is a tall and blowsy affair.  The plants that survived July’s burning sun and dry soil have caught their second wind and are encouraged into fresh growth by the cooler nights and the rainy remnants of the hurricane season.  Hummingbirds and butterflies flock to their favorite flowers, building up energy for their imminent migrations.  Everything is tall – the shrubs have grown extra arms that reach everywhere, the grasses have sprouted tall wands that catch the wind, and everything seems to flow and spill and tumble in a rush to be seen and tasted before summer ends.

Now it is almost dark – the brash golds and burgundies of Rudbeckia and Zinnia are now only rendered as silhouettes in the fading light.  It is chilly enough to want a sweater and a cup of tea – but it is hard to go inside when the fading light still reveals layer upon layer of texture, shape, movement . . . it is difficult to leave, to walk away from the enchantment of Mother Earth’s humble orchestra.  Tonight, the windows will remain open to the sound of the August garden.

Listen to the sounds of the cicadas and tree frogs.

Text and audio of “The Sound of the August Garden” ©2011 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved