Farewell to Autumn

The temperature has dropped with November,  and it is winter air that I step out into in the chilliness of the morning.

A flock of birds, their white under-wings catching the light, cross the expanse of the sky above me. A sky of piercing frosty blue, clear as a cold blade, tempered by the licking flames of the beech branches. Above the glorious radiance of that blaze, life-filled and warm against the coolness of the blue, the ghost of half-moon glides like a tattered piece of delicate tissue paper carried high by the autumn breeze.

The faint silveriness of frost pales the lawn, melting in the long streaks of morning sunshine. A grey squirrel hurries here and there in the leaves, and up above, a little movement that might have been made by falling leaves show themselves, to a close observer, to be made by little tits, darting here and there in the frosty air, in between the golden foliage.

Closer to me, the autumn crocuses are flattened against the grass on which the frost has already melted into clear sparkling droplets, and to my left, the red berries are bright on the yet green foliage of yew and holly (our holly trees always have ripe berries early).All the leaves are gone from the little cherry, except for one or two of speckled yellow, that even now spiral down. In the flowerbeds the flowers and their green leaves have fallen back, leaving only their seed-heads, which stand erect and delicate. And the foliage that remains, the tall purple loosestrife and the ferny leaves of the incense rose on their rich brown stalks, is dappled red and yellow like the trees. In the big bushes of garden cranesbill, a deep blue bloom can yet be sometimes found, hiding under the withering leaves, with a spider’s web suspended from its stalk. Those flowers are some of the last to survive. But over the dried desolation spreads a new growths – some starry flowers, some like red flames and others with pale pink blooms, remembering their native home where it is always summer, spring up in bright clouds of colour.

‘Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?

Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,-‘

 

 

 

 

Autumn: Warm Sunlight, Cold Air

Where are the songs of Spring? Ay, where are they?

Think not of them, thou hast thy music too,—

While barred clouds bloom the soft-dying day

 And touch the stubble plains with rosy hue;

Then in a wailful choir the small gnats mourn

Among the river sallows, borne aloft

Or sinking as the light wind lives or dies

And full-grown lambs loud bleat from hilly bourn;

Hedge-crickets sing; and now with treble soft

The red-breast whistles from a garden-croft

And gathering swallows twitter in the skies.

From Keats,

To Autumn

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Out of our French-doors I can see the spread of the garden – the leaves of the little wild cherry in the foreground glowing powerfully golden-green in the fast dying magic of the late sunshine, and behind it, after the sweep of the green lawn, thinly spotted with the first fallen leaves, the same golden light kindles the branches of the huge Copper Beach, the glorious framing backdrop of our garden.

Only now and then, the light falls so that a string of spider’s web, streaming out in the gentle breeze, becomes visible, shining like a fairy-rope, and likewise the gauze wings of the flying insects that float, dreaming in the beams.

The feeling of the evening is warm and drowsy, so much so that, lulled with the golden light, I am startled by the feeling of the air as I step out onto the warm-coloured stone, patterned with the long shadows of grasses.

For me, the first sign of autumn is the change in the air. Many times, when officially it is still summer, and the leaves cling still to the branch, and look still fresh and green, I only have known that beneath the blanket Autumn stirs.

Because the pastel-soft warmth of the air has changed to a clean-cut, earthy crispness, a well recognized, but yet, I think, under-expressed smell, a smell that, like so many smells, brings back a rush of memories.

Today I have smelt it.

Today I salute Autumn.

How can I wait? How can I wait for Halloween and leaf-fall and the Autumn magic?

Preserving Leaves

Many times in Autumn I have strolled out along the wet grass and found blown into the hedge a single perfect leaf, in which a sensational mixture of beautiful reds, golds, and browns, flow into each other. It makes you sad to think that in few days, that gorgeous leaf may be tattered, sodden and ragged, rotting away into the mud. But there is a way of saving such perfect specimens of autumn leaves from this melancholy fate.

Leaf preserving is great fun; you can gather the beautiful red and gold leaves while the sun shines and the garden is radiant with gold, and then when one of those cold and windy autumn days was playing outside is out of question comes along, you can do the preserving part.

We tried two ways of preserving leaves but the only really successful one involved glycerine, which is thick liquid that comes in bottles. The instructions for preserving in glycerine are as follows

1 Place all the leaves you have gathered in a large bowl or tray

2 pour in two jars of water, half a jar or less of washing up liquid and one of glycerine. There ought to be enough liquid to cover all the leaves. If not, rinse out the jar with more water and pour it into the bowl/tray

3 press a plate down over leaves and water, (firmly but no so hard that the mixture rushes out over the plate), and leave it.

4 leave to sit for around two or three days ( we left ours in for much longer than this by mistake and they came out perfectly fine, so don’t worry, but try to have them out before four days if possible)

5 take leaves out and dry carefully, one by one.

Tip (it works best of yellow or gold leaves as the glycerine can sometimes take colour out of the red and pink ones)

 

After you have given your leaves the proper treatment they should stay as though freshly picked, or perhaps a little squashier, for at least several months and possibly years (I do not know because we only finished our leaves a few months ago.

The second method of preserving leaves did not work as well; therefore I shall not bother to give exact instructions for how we did it. The place from which we got the idea suggested laying the leaves between two layers of grease paper and then iorning them. This ought to have made the two pieces stick together; thus trapping the leaves underneath. The idea was that you’d make scenes or patterns with he leaves and by trapping the leaves under the paper you could make them stay in whatever arrangement you’d put them. This did not work for us however, as the two pieces would not stick together. It did make wax and flatten the leaves however, and made them more manageable for making pictures. We put them behind plastic and stuck them up on the window for the sun to shine through and they looked beautiful.