It’s been a big week. Big politically, big earthquake-ly and big back-to-square-one-with-our-house-hunting-ly. But it’s amazing what a stroll in a park (or three) can do to clear the mind and lift the spirits and it’s a particularly special time in our parks.
Autumn this year has been like no other autumn. I’ve seen it through entirely new eyes. Of course, I haven’t seen a cold temperate autumn like this for nine years and so there is almost certainly novelty at play. But I also think nine additional years of living makes you appreciate, more fully, the truly valuable things in life and the nature of their fragility. I could leave it there, but I can’t help wonder if there is also some subconscious connection between ageing leaves and ageing garden designers. Something along the lines of empathy!
The thing that has struck me more than any other this season, is the quality of light at this time of year. There are still plenty of dull, grey, English days but when the sun is out, it positively sparkles, twinkles and illuminates foliage in a way that is entirely mesmerising.
It isn’t just the beautiful colours. Colours make the light quite vivid, but it’s simultaneously incredibly soft. Everything becomes translucent, the light picking up each and every leaf, almost electrifying them and bringing them to life.
And it’s the angle of light, too. So incredibly low in the sky. Not at all like autumn or winter in Australia. Long rays of light glide horizontally over the ground, seemingly coming to greet you. Like gentle spotlights, picking out and highlighting individual features of the landscape.
Everything feels soft and mellow and full of depth. Fallen leaves seem to gain a whole extra dimension; their texture and strong relief lifting them from the ground in 3D.
The focussed light rays encourage your eyes to see with a new focus. Leaf veins that you’d never have noticed at other times of year suddenly have a compelling hold of you.
Rather than noticing that the roses are over, you notice that one, strong, stoic flower–the very last across the rose garden–is holding on that little bit longer, before closing its eyes for winter. You notice everything about that rose; each and every last fold of petal. It reminds you how you are only limited by your mindset; in decaying scenes you can always find beauty if only you try hard enough.
Autumn can’t help but remind you of the passing of time. But it also reminds you of renewal and of the cycle of life. In amongst the trees, in their moment of glory, when all attention is on them, you realise how stately they are and how reassuring their stable presence is.
They are no longer just trees. They suddenly become the most important features in the world. Ones you can’t take your eyes off. Standing there, year after year, watching life develop all around them. What, I wonder, do they make of our faster and faster pace of life; of each person walking past them glued to their mobile phone?
Fleeting beauty is always appreciated more than permanency and autumn is the ultimate season of change. Until leaving the UK, I’d always thought summer was my favourite season. It’s the season of sunshine and shorts, long days and busy social lives.
But this year, spring and autumn have been equally thrilling and I realise how much I now appreciate their contrasts.
I’m not sure I’ll be as full of beans about winter; perhaps that will never live up to spring, summer and autumn. But of course, that remains to be seen and I must remember my mindset.
So hats on, gloves on, scarves on; let’s see what winter brings!