Spring forward, fall back. In the early hours of Sunday morning the clock went back, gaining us an additional hour that day as we exited British Summer Time and head into autumn and winter.
This time of year makes me sad. It’s the end — of warm, cotton skirts and sandals days; evenings that around midsummer stretch towards midnight like polished silver; of sun spangling the sea with sequins and catching the sails of prancing yachts; of picnics (impromptu — perched on a wall or step with baguette and bottle of water from a local shop, and organised — garishly coloured plastic plates and cutlery nestled on our laps, heaped with whatever salad stuff was in the fridge); of sitting in the garden reading with the sun playing across bare arms and legs; of leisurely strolls, flip-flops crunching on beaches or padding by harbours, along the banks of rivers, or through designed landscapes, camera invariably in constant motion between clutched in hand and raised to shoot.
By autumn the acid greens of new leaves in spring are merely a memory, and while a few hardy flowers persist bravely in the garden borders, their heads dancing frantically in rain and gusty breeze, most have flowered their hearts out in all the shades of the rainbow then faded into the background.
The leaves turn, sometimes displaying a last vibrant and defiant burst of colour before being swept away across fields and roads by blustering winds to lie battered and bruised where they come to rest. And then we are left with a landscape of greys and browns to mourn their loss. The branches of bare trees etched starkly against the platinum sky, a reminder of what once was.
We are all leaves, each and every one of us, and too many leaves on the trees around me have fluttered to the ground this year, to make autumn even more poignant.
Sometimes autumns smile on us, bestowing sapphire blue skies, crisp sunshine that throws long, stick figure shadows, while bright red berries on holly trees, cotoneasters, and in hedgerows cast a hopeful glow, allowing us to cherish a few more snatched days of late summer before it disappears below the horizon.
‘In my end is my beginning’, wrote Mary Queen of Scots before her execution. Mary was referring to her better life in another world as held out by her faith, but the phrase seems appropriate also for many plants and trees. Spring rains and summer warmth encourages them to grow, flourish, blossom, then before they die or hibernate they set seed to ensure the continuance of the species.
Seedheads are some of the things I like about autumn, the demise of the flower carrying within it hope for the future. The array of shapes and styles of the seedheads ensures wide dispersal of their treasure, some suited to falling around the mother plant like children around an adult, others to being blown freely by the wind, and others to being spread far and wide by birds and animals so that come the new beginning of spring the tiny seeds are ready to embark on the big journey of life.