Nature columnist Lucy Purdy on how light lends a glow to autumn’s lengthening nights
Leaving my front door to swing shut, I shield my soul with headphones and scurry the mile of raucous road until the gap in the fence. Slipping away from the brashness, I unlatch my ears as I walk into the wood. My boots pat a soft pulse on the ground and, among the bramble bushes, I see dew drops tremble on spiders’ webs: notes on ghostly staves.
I pass birch trees whose bark peels off in crisp, translucent receipts. Sun shafts shoot between trunks like a barcode. Nature is taking stock for the winter. In her woodland marketplace, all has fallen quiet as summer shuts up shop. The store rooms are being lined with new gems: food for the months ahead.
Light becomes precious in autumn, knowing it will give way to grey. The dark slinks closer, harder to shake. But energy is moving. Leaving spring shoots and summer’s flush, life nestles now in gold, red and brown: fruits, seeds, nuts and roots.
Leaving spring shoots and summer’s flush, life nestles now in gold, red and brown: fruits, seeds, nuts and roots
Autumn begins its well-rehearsed performance, shedding costumes after every act, each one finer than before. As I walk, life tumbles from above: silk-soft capsules full of promise. Though everything is close to crumbling, life keeps going: still reaching, trying, seeding hope where there seems none. Showboating squirrels trapeze among branches, collecting supplies in a balancing act between plenty and scarcity. And blackberries stage a colourful sideshow, from green to red to purple to black; inky hedge-treasure, ripe for discovery.
I stow these moments in memory as I amble home. They are powerful and extra precious now; like sun aligning on the winter solstice to flood an ancient burial chamber. I remember the small chinks of forest light. I remember that plants take root in the tiniest of cracks. I remember timeless firegazing, where the world shrinks to a small illuminated circle of faces, held in nature’s hands.
Seek out gentle stillness. Watch landscapes shimmering soundless. Our human nature needs these times.
Illustration: Louise Lockhart