As the light of evening and memories of summer fade, nature invites us to enjoy the beauty of harvest time before darkness really sets in.
Their frantic flight and noisy gatherings at gloomy times mean the swallows are almost ready to go and I miss them before they’re gone.
These very welcome summer visitors, who have made their home and hatched their chicks in the shed behind our house, are about to embark on their long journey to much sunnier climes.
“There’s a crackling in the air,” says a neighbor as she walks past my gate. Another, who walks her two dogs, laments the fact that her late evening walks are coming to an end. The other day she was shrouded in darkness before making it home when the light fell like a stone, she tells me.
The first major fall storm this week blew many of the plane trees that line the riverbanks. A carpet of them lay strewn across the lawn. Suddenly everything that appeared green and green is preparing to be thrown away, and it feels too soon.
How can it be autumn already? Maybe because none of us are ready to head out into the long winter nights after our first normal summer in two years.
By the end of the month we will have lost more than two hours of daylight since the peak of summer. The thought of the harsh winter ahead makes many of us want to stay under the covers like a bouquet. But despite the signs of summer’s departure, there’s still plenty to enjoy in the weeks ahead. On the days that I swim, I lie in the sea with my eyes closed and enjoy the sun on my face and the fact that the water temperature is still almost 16 degrees. In a few months it will drop to eight and I will dream of such days.
In the ditches the blackberries are juicy and full, and as I pick them into my metal pitcher I think of my mother’s superstitious warning never to pick a blackberry from a plant below the knee.
Driving through a bog, the scene is one of amazing colour: purple, auburn and splashes of green against a gray sky make me stop to take a closer look.
Honeysuckle is in full bloom along the roadsides, the lush red blossoms bending heavily over the road. The Montbretia, with its bright orange petals, is just really showing off.
Soon the leaves will display their most dazzling display of color before releasing them, and like the animals gathering their supplies of crops, I intend to soak up that brilliance.
According to Ian Robertson, Professor of Psychology at Trinity College Dublin, studies have shown that nature is both a healer and a provider.
He points to research showing that hospital patients who can see nature outside their window recover faster and are discharged sooner than those who don’t.
He also points out that aside from its healing properties, if we pay close attention to what’s happening in nature, we have less room to dwell on the negative. “Nature is a great attention catcher and attention booster with very positive emotional and physiological effects,” says Prof. Robertson.
In times of worry or stress that feels like a constant these days, having something that draws attention is balm. When you realize that this special time in nature is fleeting, holding and saving moments of color and vibrancy feels like an even greater gift.
The sight of the heron in flight against the last of the evening light, the trees swaying in unison as the wind shakes them, and the noisy evening encounter of swallows on the power cables before they take off, all demand my attention.
The interesting thing is, the more I look, the more I see.
The more attention I pay to nature, the more it reveals its secrets to me.
Rather than fret over the loss of summer days, I promise I’ll keep watching as the leaves fall, because there’s always going to be something that surprises me.
And as I fill my bucket with blackberries, I will seek to fill my heart’s chalice with the sights and sounds of the natural world still abundant, to drink from when winter’s ravages bar the trees and ditches.
https://www.independent.ie/opinion/comment/make-the-most-of-autumn-before-winter-chill-sets-in-41977599.html Make the most of fall before the winter chills set in