Sunday, 15 September 2019

Autumn’s fading glory brings rebirth.

Our months and seasons are not arbitrary artificial affairs, decided upon by committee and vote. They are periods of time defined by the experiences of hundreds of generations before us.

Nature doesn’t follow our calendar: it created it.

I love to sit outside, watching the seasons emerge, burst into life and then sigh, fade and die.

Elevated, surrounded by trees and fields of pasture, the ecosystem hereabouts is thriving.

Clearly it’s not pristine, as there are sheep and cattle being farmed by humans, but over the last 9 months I’ve seen an incredible diversity of plants and animals around my patch.

Every week - sometimes it feels like every day - there’s a shroud of different small flying things draped over the walls of the house, or crawling in their thousands, like a living carpet, over my car Joey SX.

My life here has improved immeasurably since the landlord cut back the huge laurel that stood at the end of the cottage.

Millions of midges disappeared from my immediate environment, leaving only the other gazillion trillion who live around the trees.

Great news for me, with a clean fresh breeze able to flow around the western gables, but disaster for the two spiders who lived in my tiny bathroom.

Even though I’m an old-fashioned arachnophobe, I’ve had to contend with spiders of all shapes and sizes on my travels, and understand that beyond irrational fear, it’s good to have them around.

There are webs inside nearly all of my windows, which I’m loathe to clean up, as they act as nature’s own midge screens.

However, a couple of weeks after the laurel was cut back, I noticed that Mr. And Mrs. Leggy were no longer lurking the corners of my loo.

With their tiny daddy longlegs bodies, they weren’t very threatening, so if they wanted to eat midges, that was fine with me.

Clearly that laurel had been the source of their food supply, and although we’re well used to hearing Sir David and young Greta remind us how fragile our ecosystems are, it was instructive to see how one act impacts another life, right here in my home.

Spring and early summer were very dry, My cornflowers grew 2 and 3 feet tall before they encountered rain. The morning after a small downpour, I found them keeled over, so I cut them for vases, and the fresh growth underneath is still flowering.

My first summer here had to be a bit of a gardening experiment. Now I have some idea of what thrives here and what merely survives.

I’ve a gaggle of friendly finches and robins, and can now see the first hint of red emerging on the young robins’ chests.

Bees loved my flowers, thrumming around all summer, while one bumble made a home in my garden bench, dumping chopped up leaves on the ground below, gradually ferrying in the vegetation as construction continued.

By their very nature, wildflowers loved it here. Nigella are coming through late, along with the French marigolds, while the nasturtiums are still bursting with energy. Rich deep purple towers of delphinium were utterly splendid, but long gone.

The sunflowers are spent, the darkness is creeping closer, and I’m curious to see how autumn happens here.

Not looking forward to the impending deluge of leaves from the splendid trees all around me, but it’ll be good exercise, raking and bagging them up for leaf mould.

Right on cue, on August 30th, my sweet peas decided summer was over.

After a wet and windy night, two of my three trellises hurled themselves to the ground, the sweet peas crushed and sprawled, still attracting butterflies and bees, but never again to stand upright and glorious.

Nature flows like a temporal river, which we then divide into months and seasons.

Change comes once more. Outside my window the Scotch Pine is bending and twisting as the cold front pushes through.

The car windows are damp in the morning, and there’s a freshness in the air that I love.

Low sunlight powers jaw-dropping radiance through distant dark clouds.

The advancing twilight bursts with bird activity. Swifts swoop and dive, feeding in lattice patterns under crimson skies.

Bats cavort over the lawn at dusk, suddenly changing direction, as if banging into invisible walls.

A pair of wood pigeons explode out of an ash tree, flying away in different directions.

Crossing from the back field to the wet meadow, here comes the fox, and oh, there’s another and another and another!


Having feasted on the prolific local bunny population, the fox cubs have grown so much it’s now difficult to tell parent from child.

Across three fields I see the ground-level grey mist of a downpour easing my way.

It’s a mistake to see autumn as an end. We Jews celebrate Rosh Hashanah, our new year, in September, which makes perfect sense. 

 ...them's red berries, theyze is...

Walking the bohreens, I see hawthorn branches drooping under the weight of clusters of plump red berries, and brambles laden with bulbous blackberries.

Autumn’s fading glory brings rebirth.

As towering willow herb collapses into fluff, as the tractors bring the turf in and the heating oil trucks rumble out, I feel an exhalation of relief from the fields and hedgerows:

“Whoof! Quite a show! Well done everyone!” 

All their growth has worked. While fruit fall to the ground, while seeds fly through the air, the cycle continues: new life begins.

©Charlie Adley

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