I pause on my way to Hay, and photograph the cliffs, seeing words set in the hills. Hay Bluff should dance with insects – the attendant angels.
I visit Richard Booth's bookshop, lingering at its stairway to heaven, the steps painted to sign 'philosophy', 'classics', 'poetry', 'history'. That bookshop is always peopled, for me. That is where I stood talking to Max Porter about how brilliant Tom Bullough's Addlands was. That exact place is where I talked about solitude and starlight with other writers whose minds are a reflection of my own chiaroscuro. But I am alone, today, alone in Hay, because the pandemic threw everything wrong.
Out of the bright sunlight and into a darkened studio, hosted by Rob Hopkins, I give a talk about endlings and insects, about survival and awe, grace and grief, necessity and beauty. Without insects, there would be no flowering of plants or flowering of culture either. No Richard Booth's, no authors, no poetry, no films, no festivals, no love. Studies underline what personal experience has already shown: it is no longer common to need to clean insects off car windscreens on any summer drive. There are simply not enough insects: their numbers have collapsed.
In the blacked-out hyper-hygienic studio, one tiny insect floated lost in the lights, and it evoked the poignant fact that bees, poisoned by neonicotinoids, are thought to become unable to find their way home. Insecticides should be made illegal overnight, every scrap of farmland turned to organic farming and the human heart requisitioned: for love.
After my talk, I stopped off at a friend's and we drank beer in his graveyard and talked about love. ('Why have you brought a bone here?' he asks. I like it. It keeps me grounded.)
I drove home. Astonishingly, for the first time in years, I had to stop on the way, to clean the insects off my windscreen. There was summer in my heart.
Jay Griffiths is a former Hay Festival Creative Wales International Fellow. Her books include Wild: An Elemental Journey and A Love Letter From a Stray Moon. She has written for The Guardian, Orion Magazine and The Idler and is a fierce advocate of nature's remaining wild places. Her latest book is Why Rebel? Watch her event of Tuesday 1 June 2021 again on Hay Player.