Every time I experience autumn I feel like it’s for both the first and the last time. It makes little logical sense to me. I know that as a man rapidly approaching his 40s, I’ve seen plenty, but the novelty doesn’t wear off. In fact, it only seems to increase with each passing year as I notice more and more.
As for seeing it for the last time, it feels that if I don’t get a chance to appreciate the autumn, I feel like I haven’t had a chance to come to terms with the coming winter — like the shock of a sudden death or falling into cold water. I feel ill prepared for the months ahead and I know it will be another year before I see it again. A lot can happen in a year and the cold, honest truth is, there are no guarantees I will see another.
I feel a deep regret every morning on my journey to work. In that quarter of an hour I get to see a glimpse of autumn’s beauty; whether against a backdrop of crisp blue skies or a lambent glow in the morning mist. It teases me knowing I will spend the best part of the daylight hours in a manmade shell doing work that is meaningless to me. On the way home after work can be worse: driving down the hill with the dark rain-swollen clouds only serving to magnify the intensity of amber light that ignites the valley, knowing all too well that right now is the moment, and that it will have passed by the time I get home. For me, it’s not enough to see it. Seeing it is a tease. I need to be in it.
October has the reputation of being the premier autumn month, but I think it’s actually those early days of November where the sweet spot lies. Those October trees that are early to turn are really just the heralds of autumn’s approach. They are the first notes of a melancholy melody that drifts across the landscape, but it’s that short window in early November when the symphony of autumn swells before the crescendo of the inevitable autumn storms.
I feel recently I’ve lost touch with the nature I feel so at home in. I haven’t been out enough. It feels like it was only yesterday I was enjoying a peak late-September afternoon in the forest. Now finding myself in early November, I have no idea where October has gone.
I need an autumn experience — an abstract concept perhaps, but I know it involves forgetting about nearly everything else and just being out there in it. I feel need more autumn than what I see through my windscreen when travelling, or what the occasional walk can give me.
I want to walk deep into the forests, to see the rise and the fall of the colours, to see the trees turn and the fall on the breeze. I want to hear the patter of rain on the forest floor and smell the rich mulch. To be there when the sun breaks from the rain clouds and casts glitter over gold. To climb high trails at sunset and look down at the texture of the valleys below me. To watch morning rays mists crest the tops of Japanese larches — oh the larches.
I want to experience autumn intimately so I can capture it and distil its essence creatively — in writing, photography or art, who knows? I’ve missed my opportunity this year. Here’s to next autumn.