ESSAY Philippa HollowayNWR Issue 108
Energy Crisis: A Memoir of Summer Solar Power
Summer starts with dandelions. They erupt after the pale agreeing heads of the daffodils have withered to brown and begun to relent. The roadsides and fields are ablaze with them. They are my favourite flower and as I drive along the duel carriageways and B-roads that twist colubrine through Gwynedd and Anglesey I am grinning like a kid on a Friday at 3 pm. Their magnitude and attitude fuels me. So far it has been what everyone describes as ‘unseasonably warm for this time of year’, but the Earth doesn’t seem to think so, is happy to silently shift gear and get on with it without checking a calendar, complaining or rejoicing. No matter how hot the early sun beats down the dandelions burn defiantly back, heads upturned, dark green arms spread wide to catch their energy source, to turn it into chlorophyll and grow ever taller. As I drive past fields into which their gold coin optimism is piled and scattered I feel compelled to pull over, step through the thorny claws of defensive hedges and roll down the hill as I did as a child, sending millions of things, all legs and wings, up into the hazy air and smelling the dark green of crushed leaves and stems beneath me. I think of the sticky white blood that stained my young skin, that made perfect printed O’s of bitter sap on my clothes, and I want to feel it again, knowing its harsh taste somewhere in my cell memory, knowing how hard it is to wash off, how red the skin goes with the rubbing. I want that. The pure energy of gravity pulling me down the slope, faster and faster, kinetic and absolute and leaving me dizzy and out of breath despite the lack of effort on my part.
And knowing that the destructive path of my rolling body won’t stop them, that’s part of the joy. Even the strimmers and ride-on mowers the council men use to decapitate and crush all striving spring growth can’t stop the dandelions. Two, maybe three days after the slaughter, as the severed stalks and dead insects begin to dry out and brown under the weight of the sun, the lights will come back on. One by one, orange and angry and joyful. Their energy is indestructible, their resilience unstoppable.
But mine isn’t. I can’t stop and roll in their colourful heat, or collect their rich dark bitter leaves to feed a pet rabbit long since dead, as I have an appointment to attend. The clock on the dashboard says I’m early, but not early enough to stop and use up the last dregs of my own energy in a game.
My arm rests on the open window frame of the driver’s side door, bare to the sun bar for the layer of factor fifty sunscreen that is now a daily routine. A smooth invisible layer of synthetic skin between me and nature, a shield to defy the elements and cut off all communication between the sun and my skin.
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grew up in a small town near Nottingham, came to Wales to study at university and refused to leave. She lives with her husband and son in Glasinfryn on the edge of Snowdonia and teaches Creative Writing on Anglesey for MIND. She has had short fiction published in journals such as Ascent Magazine in the US and Bukker Tillibul in Australia and has also given fiction readings and critical papers at international writing conferences. She is currently working on a novel as well as collaborative work with other writers/artists. Her memoir, from which this is an excerpt, was highly commended in the New Welsh Writing Awards 2015, WWF Cymru Prize for Writing on Nature and the Environment, run by ourselves.
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