Autumn Reflections

Sea Holly, Eryngium maritimum
Sea Holly, Eryngium maritimum

All at once summer collapsed into fall – Oscar Wilde

How you view the autumn depends whether you see the edge of summer exploding into celebratory firework display of red and gold, gently declining into a melancholia of mists and mellow fruitfulness or a clarion call to prepare for the coming of the great darkness and the arrival of the Wulf-monath.

Once, when I lived in the land of trees, as the summer became over-blown and jaded, the cooler air of autumn heralded a season that was full of rich colour. A tapestry of leaves turning from green to gold, dancing in the wind and falling to rustle over a carpet of cruchy beech mast. A maze of hedgerows magically bedecked with plump sumptuous fruit in jewel hues, a welcoming feast for the winter thrushes. Memory wrapped in a mist of sentimentality obscures reality of the cold wet fogs which blanketed my walks to school and turned the rustling leaves to a carpet of brown slime!

Now I live in a land bereft of trees, and the character of autumn is different, stimulating a different range of senses. In some respects it is more subtle, there are no brazen colours to transform the landscape just a gentle fading as the vibrant summer colours dissolve into a palette of misty blues and greys. If the arrival of autumn is not proclaimed by visual pyrotechnics, it is announced by the echo of the throaty roar of the stags from the hills, by bugling of a herd of whooper swans flying low over the sea and the whistle of wigeon on the lochs. As summer departs southwards, winter begins to arrive from the far north.

New Zealand Flax, Phormium
New Zealand Flax, Phormium

There are days when the wind blusters and howls and the squalls bombard the windows with a tattoo of rain. The storms turn the sea is battleship grey and the waves roll and tumble onto the rocky shore in a crescendo of surf and flying foam.

As one Atlantic depression departs and before the next swings over the horizon, there may be a respite when the wind drops and the leaden skies give away as the sun breaks through.

Autumn in these islands does not inspire gentle melanacholia, the mood is too dark and dramatic. The melodrama of the storms is often contrasted with the claustrophobia of a dreich day, but eventually the cloud lifts and the sun appears. A little warmth may raise the spirits, but there is always the knowledge that reign of Cailleach Bheur, the blue hag approaches and it is time to prepare for winter.

15 thoughts on “Autumn Reflections”

  1. What a lovely read this post is. Thought-provoking text; coming from a land of forests (Finland) the trees very much dominate the seasons here. We also don’t have the gale season as you do, although in recent years the weather has turned more towards strong winds, especially in winter, but occasionally during the summer also. That changes everything. A crisp frosty windless winter day is so very different from wet gale. The sounds change too.

  2. I grew up in the far north of Scotland where there were few trees and no autumn colours as the leaves all blew off with the first gales. I still find autumn trees astonishing.

  3. Beautifully written. Each season has its own beauty and you’ve captured the islands autumn perfectly 👍

  4. Thank you Julian. One of my great pleasures is to follow the seaons through the words and photographs of my coterie favourite bloggers. – I do dislike the word blog – there must be an alternative!

  5. If you live in a landscape with very few trees, you really appreciate our native woodlands. I have missed our annual trip to Dawyck Botanic Garden and its beautiful collection of trees.

  6. I have missed your delightfully evocative prose, Christine – thanks for dusting it down again! How about being a digital diarist instead of a blogger?

  7. Lovely to find a post from you Christine. I love your description of your island autumn. We have plenty of colour here this year, but endless rain. Lots of interesting toadstools though.

  8. It’s most definitely a bittersweet season for me, even with the pyrotechnics. I hate winter with a passion. It is the dreich without a doubt, a bright crisp sunny day changes everything. I remember driving around Skye (I think it was) on such a day and seeing the whooper swans. You are not without compensations!

  9. During this challenging times I consider mtself to be very fortunate to live on such a beautiful island. Ok the weather can be foul, but it’s a small price to pay.

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