Autumn is in full russet-and-tumble here. Bonfire smells, tractors at every turn, golds and reds where there were greens not long before. I love it.
What I especially love is how, at this time of year, our relationship with nature becomes much more direct. Everywhere I go I see people brambling in the hedgerows. (In Northumberland, blackberries are called brambles, hence brambling = blackberrying.) My Mum and I were excited to see that the first conker had fallen from the horsechestnut tree outside her house. Every day I take a look at the apples on the tree at the bottom of our garden and plan crumbles and chutneys and pies.
Joy’s dog, Hope, seems to understand autumn too. She collects fallen apples, arranges them in a circle, and then lies in the middle of them.
(Presumably it makes sense in a greyhound brain.)
This sense of connectedness is lovely in itself, and also because it’s something that doesn’t change. I remember brambling with my Grandma. (We had a great system. She held the briars out of the way with her walking stick so I could get to all of the fruit that was hidden deep in the foliage.) I remember her telling me about how she would go brambling as a girl. Walking across a conker-strewn pavement yesterday I had a moment of nostalgia for the days when conkers meant a fever of competition during school break times, and Saturday afternoons spent throwing sticks up into a tree and trying to avoid being hit by either the stick coming down or the conkers it dislodged. (I wasn’t very good at anything to do with conkers, so I’m not sure why I’m nostalgic now. I suppose that’s what three decades does.)
Autumn, to me, feels like a place where the passage of time stops. Here the rituals – the harvesting, the pricked fingers, the baking and jam-making – connect me, forward, and back, with everyone who has ever come home with purple-stained fingers and the promise of pie in the guise of a bag of freshly-picked brambles. As I peel apples from my garden, I am at once the child helping her Grandma, the mother, and the hale and hearty old lady I intend to become. And it’s lovely.