Falling leaves, pumpkins, bonfires, conkers, mists and mellow fruitfulness, classic icons of autumn. Now add the adjective Hebridean and the picture becomes minimalist, the colours fade and the flames of autumn burn with a different hue. Here the smell of wood smoke becomes the softer, sweet odour of burning peat and the pungency of fermenting seaweed replaces the delicate, decaying aroma of wet leaves and ripening fruit. The echoing call of migrating geese and the roaring stags are more strident heralds of winter than the duet of the winter songs of robin and the blackbird. The rustling of the wind through the leaves is silenced by the bluster of a westerly gale and the beat of the rain against the window.On a monochrome morning I watch a herd of whooper swans, pure white against the indigo waves, low over the water, wings beating hard against the head wind, seeking a winter sanctuary on the island. The evocative call of the curlews on the beach and the pee-wit of the lapwings in the field has replaced the ethereal song of the larks; the sublime aria of summer is now the haunting lieder of autumn. Melancholia arrives on the wings of the storm and whispers of the approach of winter.
Tomorrow the sun will rise above the hills of the east, conquering the wraiths of the morning mist and burnishing the grasses with gold. These are the glory days of the northern autumn, as sweet and as sharp as rowan berries, as complex as the golden fragrance of an old, mature, single malt. A time to savour and add to the store of memories, a talisman against the demons of winter.
In these distant islands the images of autumn may be different but the metaphors for change, loss and remembrance still cling to this season. A symphony of change, a borderland between light and dark, the journey from summer to winter.