do I love autumn?

Do I love autumn? I’m not sure.

There certainly a deep-rooted delight in the hawthorn bushes being covered in haws, and dog roses in hips. I like eating the blackberries from the hedges and I love the smell of freshly shorn cornfields. I even like the nights drawing in and the first time I have to turn the heating on.

But as I was wondering out loud in the crew car the other day I wonder if – as we get older – the seasons become more and more poignant?

I’m sure as a schoolboy I couldn’t hold the memory of one season into another, the time passed so slowly. A summer was so endlessly long – there was no possibility of me remembering the idea of winter. Seasons all remained distinct. Now I can hold the whole cycle in my mind more easily – the years flitter by much faster.

I’ve often pondered about the human mind’s seasonal amnesia. I often think that we are designed to forget the possibility of winter in the middle of summer and vice versa. At the summer solstice it is biologically impossible to really remember that the trees will be stripped naked in 6 months time.

This explains the constant suprise and consternation we experience when the leaves do start to drop off.

Perhaps it also explains British people’s absurd misery over the rain. As if in any other year it didn’t rain in England. As if Britain was a tropical island maliciously haunted by a temperate rain God that taunted us. Why are we always surprised and cross that it’s raining? It’s like being cross because it gets dark at night, or because we only have two hands not eight.

It seems we’re wired to forget the possibility of certain unforgettable things. Most obviously the onset of winter and dying.

Of course, winter isn’t death. The beautiful story of the seasons is that Persephone comes back up from Hades every spring. Death doesn’t win. It’s heartening. The sure-fire return of April each year reminds us that September is not the end of everything – just the shady side of the circle.

But as I get older I certainly think about the decline of the summer more.

This year I could almost grasp it as one long exhalation. The beautiful buds on the leaves in my street in April – like a pink-green haze – expanding outwards to that moment in midsummer where the extension is at its furthest. The leaves won’t get any bigger, the chlorophyll won’t reach any further. And then, like very slow elastic, the inhalation begins, the life shrinks back into the trunk. In and out.

I realise that for the first half of life – in Britain at least – we are trained to see Autumn as a new beginning, the start of school, a new term. This is a nice counterbalance to the second half of life where we tend to see it as the end.

I wonder if that’s why this morning I found myself leaping into the road to try and catch a falling leaf?


  1. May

    September 15, 2009 at 10:04 pm

    Poetic, atmospheric photograps!
    Your description of life shrinking back into the tree trunk…like with people sometimes, preparing for a splendid outburst of life in spring…!
    You’ve made me start longing for autumn, let it come!

    Just keep going, Alistair!

  2. ST

    September 16, 2009 at 2:28 am

    First of all I think those pictures are cool looking and it
    is getting me in the mood for fall.

    For me I always look for the new season coming because
    where I live we get all four seasons every year. So for me
    I am always anxious for the new season to begin. I love
    fall because the weather is warm in the day and cool at
    night. You see the harvest of summer, the changing colors,
    and start of American football.

    I do agree as we get older the days fly by, but you
    remember that right around the corner a new season begins
    and that is what makes me appreciate life and to be ready
    to accept what comes with the new season.

  3. John Mc.

    September 19, 2009 at 1:41 am

    You’ve filled my soul today… the remembrances of autumn, the rain, the gray skies and billowing clouds. I love the rain. Of course here in L.A. it’s literally the essence of life we don’t see enough.

  4. Vicky

    September 20, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    ..Hmm, I’ve always thought that each person’s
    impression for the beginning of his/her life cycle
    depends from the season s/he came to this world. i.e
    I used to believe that everyone feels the way I do.
    And that’s why it’s strange for me to notice how
    much you DO NOT like winter’s WHITE πŸ™‚ which has
    always been an association for something n e w.

    Greetings for you, our Spring boy πŸ™‚
    Nice to have you back.. still poetic, filled with
    fresh ideas!

  5. rick

    September 23, 2009 at 10:24 pm

    Lovely photos, so evocative!

  6. Robert

    September 26, 2009 at 3:44 pm

    I find that I love Autumn now. Of course you’re right about seasonal amnesia. It does seem impossible in high Summer that in six months the trees will be bare, and there will be snow on the ground. This is especially true when we’re young. I recall the endless lazy days of Summer. The days seemed to be filled with rides to the beach, swimming, hiking and dinner under the stars.Thanks for the dreamlike photos they are beautiful.

  7. Brian (DocSwill)

    September 27, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    Your posts, such as this one, move me. They make me think deeper and write more creatively. Cancer gives me clarity of life, and you give my life depth with the ability to dream deeper and more vividly. You inspire!
    Thank you, Alistair for that gift.


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