Friday, May 17, 2024

Friday Ramble - Aestival

This week's word is one of my favorites, hailing from Middle English, Middle and Old French, the Late Latin aestīvālis and earlier Latin aestās meaning summer or summery. Both forms are cognate with the Sanskrit इन्द्धे (inddhé) meaning to light or set on fire. At the end of all our wordy explorations  is the ancient Proto-Indo-European (PIE) root form h₂eydʰ- meaning heat, fire or to burn.

Proto-Indo-European (PIE) is the hypothetical common ancestor of all Indo-European languages, and its elements have been assembled from known Indo-European languages. There is no record that PIE ever actually existed, but if so, it would have been spoken from the Late Neolithic (6,400–3,500 BC) to the Early Bronze Age (3300 to 1200 BC), a very long time ago. Current thinking is that the prehistoric Proto-Indo-Europeans were nomadic tribes from the steppes of eastern Europe and central Asia. An adventurous lot, they wandered as far as the Aegean, northern Europe, Central Asia and Siberia, leaving their language, religious beliefs and customs wherever they went.

In the science of zoology, aestival refers to the tendency of many living creatures to be sleepy and slow moving in the heat of summer, and botanists use the word to descri the arrangement of organs or components in a flower bud. I once thought that the word siesta (referring to a leisurely nap after lunch) was related, but I discovered a while ago that its roots are in the Latin sexta meaning the sixth hour of the day (midday).  The two words sound similar, but as far as I know, they are not related.

June is only two weeks away, and this week's word is one of my favorites for the brief greening season at the heart of the calendar year. Of course, summer is a fine word too, but it doesn't hold a candle or even a tiny wooden match to the frothy perfumed magnificence of the golden season that reigns so briefly here in the sub-Arctic climes of Canada. Aestival says it all, and I love the shape of the word on my tongue.

At last, things are warming up in this part of the world, and nectar gathering insects are starting to appear. Ornamental trees in the village (almond, cherry, crabapple and mock orange) are flowering, and the air is full of fluttering petals and sweet fragrance. Beau and I stop to look at the flowering trees on our walks, and on fine sunny mornings, the objects of our rapt attention are full of ecstatic bees, bumbles and wasps. 

Within a few days, there will be trout lilies, trilliums, columbines and wild orchids in the woods, Dutchman's breeches sprouting from every nook and rock cranny on the Two Hundred Acre Wood. The creek among the trees will gurgle its way down to the beaver pond as it always does, and grosbeaks will sing in the overstory.

I say "aestival" and its sibilance summons up images of outdoor festivals and al fresco celebrations, shaggy gardens of scarlet poppies and towering purple lupins, trees filled with singing birds, bees in the orchard, roses sweeter than any vineyard potion, perfect sunsets across the lake shared with stately herons.  

What splendid offerings the Old Wild Mother holds out to us in springtime. It's all golden, and it's all good. Here comes June in all her glory, and we (Beau and I) are ready.

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