Autumn is most definitely with us now. In the last two weeks, the weather has got progressively colder, and the days shorter, although we have only had one real day of rain here in the middle of England. The sun is much lower in the sky and walking Charlie in the mornings is a little more dangerous when on the road walking east. The trees are beautiful this year – still with the leaves on but changing into glorious shades of reds, oranges and yellows before spilling down onto the paths, fields and roads. The American term ‘fall’ aptly describes the physicality of the season, but doesn’t do justice, in my mind, to the amazing kaleidoscope of colours, scents and textures of this time of year. Autumn is a much more imaginative word, conjuring up images of past years, and memories of kicking through the leaves, bobbing for apples, lighting the fire for the first time for 6 months, closing the curtains against the darkening sky, and curling up with a book and a cup of tea – even crumpets and poached eggs. All these thoughts are summoned to my mind by the wonderful word Autumn.
I’m not one for clearing away the fallen leaves, although I have a neighbour who religiously sweeps up the leaves on every dry day. Too much like hard work to me!! And also, I like to think that I’m protecting the ground against the harshness of frosts and feeding the soil at the same time! Obviously, once the leaves on the drive get wet, they become slippery, and that’s not a good thing. But I’d rather wait until they are wet and then scoop them to one side of the drive. There’s nothing quite like that swishy, crunchy sound of walking up the drive when the leaves are on the ground in dry weather! This morning’s walk with Charlie was up the opposite side of the valley, and there was a slight mist, giving the further trees and church roof in the next village of Checkley that romantic look so well described by Jane Austen in her novels. The sun was lowish, but high enough to shorten the shadows so that they didn’t overwhelm the scene. Yet again, I stood and appreciated the wonderful countryside in which I have the good fortune to live.
Last weekend I was down near the south coast, on the borders of Hampshire and Dorset, at a place on the edge of the New Forest called Ringwood. Years ago, when working for the Bournemouth Orchestras, I would drive past Ringwood on a twice-weekly basis. This time of year the New Forest is stunning. I was giving a talk at the New Forest Guild of Weavers, Spinners & Dyers, and was staying with a fellow weaver, Dawn Willey, and her husband, Alan, in Verwood. As Dawn and I drove to the meeting on the Saturday morning, another beautiful day like today, the sun illuminated the spiders’ webs on the low bushes along the verges. It was like looking at stick on stick of candy floss! Stunning!
Although we’re all so busy chasing our tails these days, nature has the power to stop us in our tracks and just breathe deeply, breathing in the beauty and scents, and absorbing the wondrous world that is ours, available whenever we allow ourselves to stop and look.