Friday, October 10, 2008

Autumnal reflections . . .

Yes, I agree, I love the colours at this time of the year, but, for me, one of the most magical and wonderful qualities of Autumn is the scent.
Spring doesn't have a scent - not unless you think of the fresh smell of new greenery. The smell of Summer is one of heat and perspiration. Winter has no discernible scent. But Autumn . . . at a point about half-way through September you go out one morning and you sniff. And you stop in your tracks, and you wonder. Is it there? Is it really there? And then - rather like that wonderful moment in 'Lawrence of Arabia', when Omar Sharif shimmers onto the horizon and you wonder whether you're imagining it - you know for certain that the annual miracle has happened. Clearly detectable in the air is a haunting, wonderful perfume. It has arrived, every bit as real and tangible as a visitor stepping over your threshold and you taking their coat and making them welcome.

It is a magical, unmistakable scent. A scent that conjures up scuffing your way through deep leaves . . . and maturity . . . and ripeness . . . and dewy grass . . . and rich, autumnal sunsets. And you breathe it in and it has the instant effect of making life seem better, and happier and full of hope.
Don't you agree?

(a week later)

You're quite right . . . how could I forget the smell of a bonfire. And you haven't mentioned blackberries, and the sparkle of dew on the cobwebs that appear so miraculously on bracken and heather on Autumn mornings.
My favourite Autumn walk? Oh, it's hard to choose. Possibly the Kentish beech woods of my childhood, because this is where my love of Autumn started. .

I'll tell you something.
When I first went to boarding-school, as an only child I was both over-joyed to acquire so many companions, and over-whelmed at losing my customary solitude. The school was in the middle of a wood and I solved this problem perfectly.
Right in the middle of the wood, way off any path, was an ancient beech tree. It was so venerable that the branches touched the ground in a circle round the trunk. To push your way through the branches was to find yourself in a natural cathedral.
I named it Jonathan. And Jonathan was my support and friend. Whenever life got too busy, too perplexing or too complicated . . . I'd slip away and spend an hour with Jonathan.

Speaking from personal experience, I'd say that we all need a Jonathan in our childhood!