Here in Brisbane, autumn does not feel so much like a winding down, an ending – instead it seems like a time of new beginnings. During late summer in the sub-tropics, I find the heat and high humidity debilitating, sapping all energy and enthusiasm, and leaving me like a wrung-out dishcloth, damp with sweat and misery. I cannot even imagine wanting to start projects, engage in activities or even be sociable.
Nature does not seem to be affected in this way. Quite the opposite, come late summer it is pulsing with relentless life and energy. Thousands of insects buzz, hum, hop and swarm. When they are not biting us, they are eating our entire vegetable plot. Plants – mostly weeds and grass – grow abundantly. By the time I finish mowing the lawn, it’s time to start again. Weeds overtake everything. I am worn-out by just watching this intense, continuous, frantic push to grow, expand and reproduce.
But now autumn is here at last. Just this last week, the nights are becoming a little chilly. The humidity is gone. So are many of the insects. Growth slows. The days are pleasantly warm, sunny and perfect. I feel restored to life again. Suddenly, everything seems possible once more.
And now, as I walk Sophie early in the morning, I see them. The small and quiet miracles that come once the fierceness of summer has gone. Mushrooms everywhere – in the grass, nestled in the roots of trees, hiding on the underside of fallen logs. Alone, in drifts, in fairy rings. And of all different shapes and sizes, some tiny and star-like, some creamy white like enormous saucers, some cone-shaped, red and spotted. And still others brown, orange, pink, knobbly, smooth – so interesting and beautiful.
I love the way they grow in the quiet, cool, darkness of the night, and suddenly, come the morning, there they are to surprise and delight. I love their fragility and vulnerability – to me it makes them all the more precious. I know to stop and appreciate them right now, because the next time I pass by they may be gone.
The lesson I take from the mushrooms is to appreciate that special things can come in small and quiet moments and ways. The big, brash, forceful time of summer growth has its purpose, but not everything grows in that environment. Some things, some ideas – some people – flourish best in the gentle places and quiet times. And when they grow, they might be fragile, easily bruised or overlooked. Take the time to seek them out, to notice them. And you will see that they too. are simply beautiful.