Autumn is, quite simply, my favourite time of the year. Although many people understandably enjoy the ‘new birth’ of spring, or the hot weather and long days of summer, I have always favoured what tends to be one of the two cooler seasons of our year. Some of my friends cite winter as the better, thanks in part to the excitement of Christmas and the prospect of a New Year. However, I particularly enjoy the anticipation and rejuvenation of a new year not in January but September (of which more below).
If you are not familiar with Keats’ poem then I urge you to read it. I shall let his enchanting words speak for themselves. In this blog, I should like to set out just some of the reasons why I believe autumn is so special and, if you are a summer lover, perhaps this post will help you look forward to the days and months ahead rather than feel disappointment as your favourite season draws to a close.
Watching the leaves on the trees change from green to golden to flaming red is a visual delight, matched by the audible joy of the crunch of fallen leaves underfoot on a brisk autumn’s walk. Who can resist the childlike urge to kick a pile of these giant cornflakes and then watch them as they tumble silently, twisting and turning, to the ground again? Paths which would otherwise simply be muddy brown trails are transformed into golden patchwork quilts lining the way ahead through woods whose trees generously and gently drop their jewels until their branches are bare and ready for winter.
If one of these walks is blessed with a blue sky and gleaming sunshine, then that is a recipe for a perfect autumn day. Sunshine is always welcome but in the height of summer when the temperatures soar, I often find myself seeking shade or even staying indoors (not least to avoid the dreaded hay fever symptoms). However, sunshine on an autumn’s day feels like a surprise gift and makes my soul sing.
Crackling logs are accompanied by a mesmerising dance display as the flames lick the wood, pirouette above, and showcase a whole rainbow of reds, oranges, yellows, even purples and blues. I find myself hypnotised by the constant movement which is ever-changing and yet supremely calming.
Even a stack of well-arranged logs can create that snug feeling with the promise of hours curling up by a wood-burner or inglenook.
Most of my days are spent at my desk, researching, writing or teaching (currently via Zoom). As the days draw shorter, a scented candle flickering by my papers and books helps make my study a relaxing and pleasant environment. I would happily spend all my days in here so the lure of an autumn ramble ensures I keep moving and achieve some sort of physical as well as mental workout each day (or as the Roman poet Juvenal so succinctly wrote, ‘mens sana in corpore sano’).
‘Her pleasure in the walk must arise from the exercise and the day, from the view of the last smiles of the year upon the tawny leaves and withered hedges, and from repeating to herself some few of the thousand poetical descriptions extant of autumn, that season of peculiar and inexhaustible influence on the mind of taste and tenderness, that season which has drawn from every poet worthy of being read some attempt at description, or some lines of feeling.’ Jane Austen, ‘Persuasion’.