“Seasons of mists and mellow fruitfulness…”
One of the first poems I fell in love with, in year 12 Literature, was Keats’ Ode to Autumn. I was entranced by the metaphors and the gradual unfolding of deeper layers of meaning. And so it was the words of this poem that first sprang to mind when I thought of autumn.
There are so many beautiful writings about autumn. Camus said, “Autumn is a second spring when every leaf is a flower.”
And this one by Ray Bradbury – so evocative!
“The autumn leaves blew over the moonlit pavement in such a way as to make the girl who was moving there seem fixed to a sliding walk, letting the motion of the wind and the leaves carry her forward. The trees overhead made a great sound of letting down their dry rain.”
― Ray Bradbury, Fahrenheit 451
Now I actually had a Northern Hemisphere childhood. I remember clearly the raking of leaves and the subsequent jumping into them and re-scattering them across the lawn. I have vaguer memories of the nearby woods completely bare and the squirrels running from tree to tree. There is something in my childhood that links me to the many poets and writers and their dazzling or melancholy descriptions of flaming golden and crimson leaves, the year drawing towards its close, even the beginning of the school year. And I understand the view of Autumn (or Fall) being linked to a dying, loss, or at least a long Winter’s sleep.
But we do not have amber and golden forests and woodlands. Most of our trees do not drop their leaves. We do not fall here.
Now I think autumn is the steady time. The sun has turned and begins to bring its light directly into our house. (Ok – I know the sun has stayed where it is… poetic licence, anyone?) The weather patterns here are more predictable and constant – many days of blue sky, pleasantly warm temperatures with cool, crisp, cloudless nights. Then a few days of rain and back to long stretches of sunny days again. Some people begin putting on heaters or building their first log fires for the year; most are on hold. “Not quite yet,” they say.
Here on Phillip Island it is the time for penguins to moult and Shearwaters to begin their huge and rather bewildering journey to the Aleutian Islands (somewhere near Alaska). Gum trees are still flowering and birds clangour and chatter in them. There are some backyard bonfires and the CFA is burning off. And the ‘siren-call’ signals the beginning of the footy season, drawing many men to victory or drowning on a week-by-week basis.
There are still a few clear signs of the recognisable autumn of the poets. There are final fruits and veggies to harvest, wood to chop, swapping clothes in the wardrobe. And yes, the desire to bring England to this strange harsh land has left a legacy of changing leaf colours in many parks and gardens, and throughout the Dandenong Ranges. But overall our trees remain their greens and greys, our birds remain in one place, our days remain regular, stable and sturdy.
Perhaps this steady time offers some opportunity to look for ways to build our own steadiness and stability. I’d like to think so, even though it feels to me like my life is as topsy-turvy as ever! At least I can take deep breaths of cool autumn air, walk among the abundant trees and listen to the birdsong, the breeze, the sounds of autumn…
And to finish as I started with words from Keats beautiful “Ode to Autumn”
“Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?
Think not of them, thou hast thy music too…”.