I have always loved autumn and as a family, when my son and daughter were younger, we loved going for walks in the woods and swishing through the leaves. I have a special affinity to the season I suppose because my birthday is in October. But there are two sides to autumn. On one hand there is the harvest of all the wonderful natural produce of fruits, vegetables and nuts – a glut of good things. There are the golden days with slight mists in the morning and the beauty of the berries and foliage all around us. The other aspect of autumn is the sense of loss as the winds pick up in October and the beautiful leaves begin to fall so that by the time winter is upon is the trees are bare.
In my own life at present I am trying to concentrate on what is good and colourful and this morning my mood was lifted by a lovely email from the school where I used to teach. If only more people knew the positive effect of their messages, but sometimes I must admit, the melancholy creeps in. There have been quite a few high profile deaths from cancer which have really given me a sense of my own mortality when I think what they have been through. I hate the phrase “he/she lost a long battle with cancer” and I hope it is never used about me. No one who has coped with the pain, discomfort and often indignity of the illness AND the treatment can be talked about as a loser. They have won the right to peace and freedom from pain.
Autumn is also a time of memories and nostalgia. There are so many evocative smells, the wet grass, the garden incinerators slowly burning leaves and the cooking smells of apples and berries. So many memories of earlier years and holidays flit into my mind and there are twinges of regret when I think about whether I really will get through this and experience these things again.
The most evocative picture of autumn, to my mind, is Keats’ poem with its wonderful appeals to the senses. The poem ends on a note of hope as Keats notes that autumn too has its songs and beauties which are comparable to spring, the season so beloved of poets generally. Keats himself knew he was dying of TB when he wrote the poem and yet he wrote so positively. He didn’t have the option of a transplant and was dying in his twenties. I think this is a real lesson for me to enjoy this beautiful season and not think about the winter.