Summer's end

Last weekend I helped one of my community move to our house of prayer near Brecon. This wasn't an entirely selfless act, as it enabled me to spend 24 hours in my favourite place for making a retreat, during a time of glorious weather. We lunched al fresco, with the hills and Beacons spread out before us, melting into a summery haze, and a brilliant, cloudless blue sky for our canopy.

That evening, as in my retreat this summer, I sat on my doorstep savouring a silence broken only by natural sounds: birds flapping, bees nuzzling into nearby flowers, a squirrel rustling as close to me as he dared get. I realised just how accustomed I am to background noise - whirring, ticking, the hum of distant traffic. Not that Llannerchwen is immune to traffic and planes, but there is a quality of silence, a tangible stillness, which somehow transcends these noises, is all too rare and therefore very precious.

I was home in time for the end of the Paralympics, followed by tears and a hundred emotions the next day as I watched the champions' parade through London. It's been an absolutely amazing summer, full of superlatives, surpassed expectations and true, genuine inspiration. The Paralympics were the icing on an already rich cake: sightless football, limbless swimming, thrilling wheelchair basketball, all sorts of limitations and barriers broken through with courage, commitment and tenacity.

For five exhilarating, heady weeks the recession, out-of-touch politicians and the love lives of minor celebrities were surpassed by superhuman endeavours, Clare Balding and an unexpected upsurge of interest in dressage and canoeing. Normal life was not completely forgotten, of course, as George Osborne discovered when 80,000 people turned from cheering to booing the instant his name was announced, while concerns about the treatment of disabled people and government cuts to their benefits were thrown into sharp relief. But the overwhelming feeling was of positivity mingled with tears of joy, broad smiles and cheery chats with strangers in shops.

But all good things must come to some sort of end... Sadly, the summer of inspiration and glory, of buoyant spirits and good cheer is drawing to a close. And yes, the weather has noticed; the sun is still shining, but more intermittently, the air is a bit cooler (though still warm enough for cotton and no socks), and rain is forecast. And autumn colours have begun to appear - nature's consolation for summer's end...