Here in Devon, apples cluster on mossy old trees and blackberries are ripening as the summer eases into autumn. The morning air is crisp with change ... yet the pandemic goes drearily on and on. With each new season we learn new ways to live with it, but it takes a heavy toll.
Working from an isolated cabin by the woods, my daily routines (long hours of solitary desk work, broken by rambles through the hills with Tilly) have changed less than most. But Chagford, our village, is a sociable place, and it is very strange to have gone so long without meeting up with friends and neighbours for meals, music, community events, shared celebrations. The summer went by in the blink of an eye and seems to have barely happened at all. The Dartmoor countryside was as beautiful as always, the air even clearer, the birdsong more vivid ... but without friends gathered at an outdoor table, or sprawled around a picnic blanket, or playing music by a campfire while the kids and dogs tumble through the tall grass, it didn't actually feel like summer. I usually love the turning of the seaon, but this year it is tinged with melachology for all we've missed.
In honour of convivial summers past, and in the hope that there will be many more to come, I'm starting the week with songs of feasts and friendships, and of weathering hard times together....
Above: "Rang Tang Ring Toon" by Moutain Man, an American vocal harmony trio (Molly Erin Sarle, Alexandra Sauser-Monnig, and Amelia Randall Meath) from the mountains of Vermont. The song appeared on their second album, Magic Ship (2018).
Below: "Nest" by Ruth Moody, from Winnipeg, Canada -- best known as a member of the Wailin' Jennys trio. The song appeared on her first solo album, The Garden (2010).
Above: "Stand Like an Oak," a new single fom Rising Appalachia (sisters Leah and Chloe Smith), who divide their time between Georgia and New Orleans. Their most recent album is Leylines (2019).
Below: "Old Pine," by Ben Howard, who hails from the other side of the moor. This one, set on the Devon/Cornwall coast, is an old favourite of mine from Ben's first album, Every Kingdom (2011).
Above: "Old Ties and Companions" by Mandolin Orange (Andrew Marlin and Emily Frantz), from North Carolina. The song appeared on their fourth album, Such Jubilee (2015).
Below: An ode to the "Company of Friends" by Carrie Elkin and Danny Schmidt, from Austin, Texas. The song appeared on Elkin's solo album For Keeps (2012).
But let's not end on that somber note.
Below, "Typhoon" by Laura Cortese and the Dance Cards reminds us that after the wreckage of life's storms there's a time for building up again, preferably surrounded by our friends. The song is from their new album, Bitter Better (July 2020).
Top photograph: Preparing for a gathering of friends in my mother-in-law's garden here in Chagford, pre-pandemic.
Bottom photograph: Feasting with a group of women friends: Wendy Froud, me, Carol Amos, Elizabeth-Jane Baldry, Marja Lee and Hazel Brown (holding the camera), in Elizabeth-Jane's cottage kitchen. We'd been meeting monthly like this for over 25 years until the pandemic struck. I long for the day when we'll meet so freely again. I know it will come.