The call of autumn

The rain has worn itself out. As I open the gate to the wood, I know these will be the last of the cold drops splashing onto my hands. The sun is already escaping the cloud to throw dappled light onto wet tree trunks. The pattering from the canopy is slowing, but there is no denying it – autumn has arrived.

Moving under the woodland boughs, the light does not follow; it is swallowed from the sky by hungry leaves high above my head. Drips fall from the soaked foliage, a robin tries to sing over the noise. In the gloom, an emerald glow radiates from lush mosses, ferns, and the tiny liverworts patching the tree bark. Slowly the burden of providing the woodland’s verdure is taken on by these lower plants as the green in the canopy diminishes. Fallen leaves cover the floor; they are topped with sprinkles of rowan berries, acorns and hazel nuts. Birch seeds are held in spider webs in such densities that they define the individual threads of the design. Leaves flutter in the building wind, the wood smells damp and clean. Ahead of me a wren is warning others of my approach.

In some places my path is completely carpeted in fallen leaves. They are so fresh and wet that they completely dampen any sound of my footsteps. A tit flock chatter around me and to one side, a jay shrieks. It is colder than it has been in a while, my nose and toes and fingers can feel it. I catch a scent, bend to smell the rich tang of fern, and in my eye-line find a branch covered in tiny green elf cups, the colour of verdigris. I stop for a while to admire them.

A squirrel bounds across my path. It runs into a clearing and through a swathe of bracken, lemon yellow and russet. I fuss about finding my camera and at my feet find an antler. It is smooth and cold, gnarled with two tiny prongs. Despite its small size it is surprisingly heavy.

It is time to leave. As I move to walk on I disturb a frog; it hops reproachfully away. The rain has stopped and the wind is blow-drying the canopy. The sighing from the trees bids me farewell as I close the gate behind me. The wood is alone and undisturbed once again.

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