Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Grand Manan Images: A Midsummer Cushion

A Field of Flowers, Grand Manan Island

My wife, Wendy, saw these flowers beside the road on the southern part of the island, and named them "A Midsummer Cushion" after a custom in rural England in the 1600s or 1700s. People would cut a section of flowers out of the turf, and bring them indoors for decoration. The only reference I can find to this practice online is from the English poet John Clare who wrote in the early to mid 1800's. He wrote that "a very old custom among villagers in summer time to stick a piece of greensward full of field flowers and place it as an ornament in their cottages which ornaments are called Midsummer Cushions". He used this as the name of a collection of poems, that was not published until 1979.

A small part of the cushion

The weather on the island this year was perfect for photographing grasses and flowers like these. There was a lot of overnight rain, and of course, fog, especially on the southern part of the island. The wet conditions intensified the colours, and the overcast sky gave a very even light. The only problem was that I had to use a long exposure, and I had to wait until even the faintest breeze stopped to get a really sharp photograph.

Every time we passed these flowers, I thought of the "midsummer cushion", and I could almost imagine myself living two or three hundred years ago, walking through the fields of wildflowers.

. . . Rob Williams