Solar peek-a-boo

After a stupendous display throughout June and July, the sun clearly decided to take a holiday while it was still officially summer. As a result August began with showers, cloudy skies and temperatures hovering just above 20. Yes, still warm enough for short sleeves, bare feet and open windows, and mercifully not too hot and sticky for a good night's sleep, but still a few degrees cooler than we'd all like August to be.

And then, just as we begin to grumble about how summer has come to an end, the sun bursts out from behind a thick wall of clouds, and beams triumphantly, dappling everything in sight and turning leaves to gold. With impeccable timing it waits until about 10 minutes after I have left the house wearing a cardigan or jacket, before gleefully turning on the full force of its rays. And no, of course I don't grumble - I'm just happy to see it!

Our Lady of Mount Grace chapel
It behaved beautifully last week when I visited my friend in North Yorkshire (normally a pretty chilly place) in the wake of Hurricane Bertha, who heralded my arrival before dying down. Not only were we able to enjoy an al fresco coffee in Ripon and a sunny walk up to Mount Grace, but during our day in York it only rained while we were indoors, so we emerged, unawares, to sunlit puddles and shiny damp pavements. But other times, like today, it does feel like the sun has decided to engage in an extravagant game of peek-a-boo, preserving the element of surprise throughout.

And then of course there are the sunsets...! Even when the sun has seemingly spent all day buried under a duvet of clouds, it nonetheless feels obliged to emerge most early evenings and make a big show of the fact that it's preparing to set. But... why do the most magnificent sunsets happen as I'm driving on a motorway with no passenger to take photos, or sitting in a coach unable to take more than the blurriest of pictures? Instead, I drive along with this resplendent russet ball above, shimmering on the windows and fa├žades of office buildings and turning them to liquid gold, setting trees and shrubs on fire. All the way home it accompanies me, slipping imperceptibly lower, bathing the sky in a variety of colours - rose and gold fading to pale, buttery yellow then to blue-grey streaks as night gradually takes over from day.

So yes, maybe summer is on its way out, the evenings beginning that bit earlier, the temperature a degree or two lower... but while the sun is in playful mood I'm happy for it to play peek-a-boo, surprising me in sudden bursts and exultantly blazing at the end of the day. And when it remains hidden hopefully I can remember and live the ideal behind these words from Janet Stuart: Let God be your sun, penetrating you with his own life...