the basic, real, and invariable nature of a thing or its significant individual
feature or features:
Philosophy. the inward nature, true substance, or constitution of anything, as opposed to what is accidental, phenomenal, illusory, etc.
something that exists, especially a spiritual or immaterial entity.

in essence, essentially; at bottom, often despite appearances:
For all his bluster, he is in essence a shy person.
of the essence, absolutely essential; critical; crucial:
In chess, cool nerves are of the essence.

In philosophy, essence is the attribute (or set of attributes) that make an entity what it fundamentally is, and without which it loses its identity.

Essence is contrasted with accident: a property that the entity or substance has contingency, without which the substance can still retain its identity.

The concept originates with Aristotle, who used the Greek expression to ti ên einai (τὸ τί ἦν εἶναι,[1] literally meaning “the what it was to be” and corresponds to the scholastic term quiddity.

The phrase presented such difficulties for Aristotle’s Latin translators that they coined the word essentia to represent the whole expression.

There are certain images that seem to capture the set of attributes or the quiddity of the English canals.

Some of the images are historic and hint at grueling labour, hardship or community; others are sun-drenched and speak of Summer days and holidays, of family times and countryside. In an occasional series of posts ‘Reflections on a Postcard’ I thought I might share a few of these images and the associations they inspire.


“The first week of August hangs at the very top of the summer, the top of the live-long year, like the highest seat of a Ferris wheel when it pauses in its turning. The weeks that come before are only a climb from balmy spring, and those that follow a drop to the chill of autumn, but the first week of August is motionless, and hot. It is curiously silent, too.”

~Natalie Babbitt, Tuck Everlasting

This postcard shows the South Oxford Canal at the turn towards the flight of narrow locks that take the Cut from Napton onto the long level that traverses open countryside via Wormleighton to Claydon.

“Summer afternoon—summer afternoon; to me those have always been the two most beautiful words in the English language.”

~Henry James

High summer, the trees in blousy full leaf, a heat haze shimmering across green fields; at the water point before the bridge people sit on the verge of the towpath chatting; the canal is azure blue reflecting a perfect Summer’s sky.

It’s a moment of poise.

A calming, soothing image that captures what the inland waterways may still offer to those who seek life at a walking pace, who find peace in the proximity to water, and history and nature.

“Summertime is always the best of what might be.”

~Charles Bowden

“All in all, it was a never-to-be-forgotten summer — one of those summers which come seldom into any life, but leave a rich heritage of beautiful memories in their going — one of those summers which, in a fortunate combination of delightful weather, delightful friends and delightful doing, come as near to perfection as anything can come in this world.”

~L.M. Montgomery, Anne’s House of Dreams

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One thought on “Reflections on a Postcard… 1. ‘Napton Summer’

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