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.
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.