Autumn is approaching. The woodland floor is peppered with pale, hint-of-green hazelnuts and early fallen acorns. Sycamore leaves are beginning to curl into crisped up browns and yellows. The hazel’s foliage is starting to lose its green and the tops of the oak trees are well on their way to russet and gold. Fungi are slowly appearing and my fingers are stained a guilty pink from hedgerow foraging; I have lessened the burden of laden bushes, removing succulent fruit of the deepest purple, my mind focused on bramble jam, sloe gin, apple and blackberry pies.
Autumn is approaching. The swoop of a swallow is no longer a shared celebration of summer; I feel excluded from the anticipation of African plain and exotic wildlife – as the swallow exults in the adventure to come, I feel only sadness, nostalgia, the ending of the season. Each glimpse of a swallow or martin becomes loaded, secretly dated, filed in my mind as a possible last.
Autumn is approaching. The air’s becoming cold, filling the wood with a clear, damp smell. In the glades, sunlight lifts the temperature of my skin, but the nip in the air is unmistakable. Sounds are few; the constant chatter of baby birds has ceased. Now I hear only intermittent chirrups, soft and satisfied-sounding, gently passing above my head. I imagine the avian conversations: ‘Are you okay?’ ‘Yes, I’m fine. How about you? Your children?’ And each breeze that ruffles the leaves in the trees carries to me a hint of dry clatter to temper the sound of lush green connecting.
Autumn is approaching. I have started to watch the night time temperature in case of a frost. I store up and treasure moments of summer that are soon to disappear, sights, smells and sounds that will leave us for the long months of winter. There is always an element of melancholy for me at this time of the season, but this year I feel it far more acutely. My youngest two children start back at school tomorrow, the other two will follow soon; they have been out of school for over five months and I remain unconvinced of the advisability of their return. I face the coming of September with deep uncertainty and find myself less preoccupied than usual with the arrival of cooler months. Instead, I have an oppressive feeling of a great unknown as I wonder what is coming. I will follow the progression of the season through the wood and hope that it is just the autumn.