Most of us said “leaves” when Lucy asked us to say one word we associated with Autumn. We talked of their vibrant colours on crisp yet sunny autumn days, the feel of them underfoot, watching them fall and their distinctive Autumn smell. Despite some wistfulness at leaving Summer behind, we shared memories of poetry, new starts at school, college or university, walks in parks, bonfires, days out, holidays and excitement at the start of the football season.
Our recent experiences of Autumn included the joy of seeing a much-loved toddler pick up a leaf from the pavement and gaze at it in wonder, and the happy sound of children twittering like birds as they returned to school, after such a long time.
To Autumn John Keats, 1795-1821
“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness, close bosom friend of the maturing sun…”
One of the poems I remember learning at Primary school, along with John Masefield’s Sea Fever and Longfellow’s The Song of Hiawatha.
I think of September as the beginning of Autumn, when the new academic year starts. I have a vivid memory of the night before my first day at secondary school, excitedly putting my new school uniform out ready together with my satchel containing a leather pencil case my father had made for me.
I started college in Manchester on 19th September, my twin brothers’ birthdays. I walked from my student accommodation on Platt Lane, through Victoria Park to Hathersage Road, feeling excited and apprehensive in the cool crisp autumnal air, with the sun shining in a beautiful blue sky. Seeing condensation on the cars, showing the drop in temperature and that the weather was changing. It reminded me that my favourite cousin, who worked on her father’s farm, hated Autumn when the weather changed and daylight hours grew shorter as it made all her work on the farm so much harder.
As a child, I remember collecting rose hips for rose hip syrup, blackberries and wind fall apples and pears for crumbles. Beech masts, acorns, ash keys, just for fun. Feeling a chill in the air and a distinctive earthy smell when out playing in the woods admiring the beech tree leaves especially, changing colour. Enjoying kicking up the piles of crisp, crunchy fallen leaves. I still love the sights, and smells of Autumn, and kicking up the crispy coloured Autumn leaves, thinking of Nat King Cole singing The Autumn leaves came tumbling down.
Last Autumn, I had a magical experience when walking down Lime Avenue in Alexandra Park on a very still day. The Lime leaves were falling silently like snow all the way down the Avenue without being blown, making a carpet of gold on the tarmac and grass. It was very moving seeing Nature performing such a beautiful sight.
Visiting gardens in Autumn is a real joy for me when the ornamental deciduous trees start to show their leaves often in spectacular style.
I love such places as the woods in Alderley Edge, or Symons Yat above the river Wye, which both look spectacular in Autumn. I marvel at Nature’s ability to put on such a show each year.
I led the meditation today as a result of my overenthusiastic response to what we should talk about next. Once the nerves settled down a bit, I loved the tales of autumnal experiences and in particular the images conjured up of very bright Autumn leaves and fresh, shiny, red conkers.
I am a huge summer person, I love it when it’s “too hot” to sleep or be at work, I’m absolutely in my element, plus there are lots of birthdays and celebrations (including mine). I’m accepting that Summer gives way to Autumn every year and have been trying to approach it differently. A very good friend told me that she loves this time of year as she associates it with fresh starts as a result of the new academic year. A couple of years ago I was in Wilko shopping for paint and found myself amongst a crowd of expectant freshers buying plates for their halls with their well-wishing yet nervous parents who were clearly relieved that their offspring would at least have something to eat their pasta and sauce off. Thinking back, it was exactly where my mum and I went in 1998 before I went to university in Leeds.
I used to get sad that the trees shed their leaves, and I still do to an extent, the huge ash trees lining my little street sound like the sea when the breeze rustles them. I looked up why trees shed their leaves and now I know that it is about regeneration, and I have been trying to regenerate myself recently, so I very much identify with that.
My favourite part of Autumn was always bonfire night, which I liked to call “bonfireworks” when I was little. It was also my beloved Nan’s birthday, so there is no way I will not remember the 5th of November! Listening to the others talking today made me look forward to the beautiful colours, lovely light and autumnal treats – I’m hoping to be out and about and really embrace it this year!
Lucy led us today in our thoughts about Autumn. Margaret put us in the right mood by reminding us of the lovely poem by Keats, To Autumn, ‘Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness’.
In the break out group with Babs, it was lovely to find out how much we agreed on our thoughts of Autumn. Early Autumn has always been one of my favourite times of the year. If there has been a hot and humid Summer, I love the fact that come September things are cooling down. Everything seems calmer, more mellow as Keats recognised. Memories of early September meant memories of the return to school for a new year. Everything fresh, some new uniform, meeting up with friends again and an enthusiasm for learning which sadly often faded after a few weeks and reality set in!
Many people mentioned their happy memories of the bright colours of leaves as the seasons changed. My favourite colour of Autumn was, and still is, the colour of a fresh conker as it just comes out of its shell.
When my children were young, we used to walk through Longford Park to get to their school, and because it was early in the morning, there were many conkers just fallen, and we had the pick of the bunch. The beautiful rich colour and sheen make them one of nature’s jewels. The other thrill of conkers was of course the conker fight (not now allowed) and if you found a good one and soaked it in vinegar to make it even harder you had a ‘killer conker’ to beat all comers!
Later in Autumn here were memories of bonfire night and fireworks and bonfires without any thought of health and safety. I could remember my dad going to the bottom of the garden to light some very innocuous fireworks, and us being allowed to hold a Sparkler safely at arm’s length to ‘write your name’ with the spark.
Public displays of fireworks are magnificent and of course much safer than the little affairs in your back garden were, but do they hold the same memories?
I love Autumn with its misty mornings, changing leaf spectaculars, and abundance of fungi, nuts and seeds. It is also deer rutting season which I’m not so fond of but nonetheless it is a fascinating act of nature.
The changing leaf colours of reds, golden yellows, and browns are simply stunning, a sight to behold, which can literally take my breath away.
Such a wonderful colour sensation, often leaving me awe struck. Not to mention the sheer magic of walking through piles of fresh crunchy leaves.
My obsession with leaves even finds me making cardboard leaf shapes and writing on them. Noting down anything that I wish to release, from bad habits to old hurts. I then have a little burning ceremony which makes this my special time of letting go. Very fitting for this season.
In our breakout room, Jean and I reminisced about our childhood memories of conkers and bonfire night. Conker fights were the best of fun. In my mind I was always a winner, splitting my opponents conkers with my Sixer. I think a sixer meant you’d won six times with the same conker. We both remembered hardening our ’weapons’ either by baking or soaking in vinegar. You could boil them in vinegar too. When hardened you made a hole in them and threaded with string, old shoelaces were often the order of the day. Conker fights are banned in schools nowadays due to health and safety rules but there are world championships held in this sport!
I have wonderful memories of bonfire night, which I may have written about previously. However, Jean and I both agreed that early Autumn is definitely our favourite.
Nury and I reflected a lot on how Autumn routines and traditions vary in England and Iran. In the former, it feels like the cultural start of Autumn is the start of September, even if the astronomical Autumn doesn’t begin until 22nd September. We associate the start of September with schools returning and the weather changing, and we’re surprised by pleasant September sunshine and call it an “Indian summer”.
In contrast, Nury told me that Autumn starts very much on 22nd September in Iran, and it is on this date that children go back to school, and the harvest starts.
I spoke of how I tend to associate Autumn with short days, dark evenings, Halloween and Bonfire Night. Nury told me that there is also a bonfire celebration in Iran which takes place on the last Wednesday of each year. The festival is called Chaharshanbe Suri; a little Googling tells me that this translates into English as “Scarlet Wednesday”. Wikipedia tells me all sorts of facts about the tradition’s origins, but I find Nury’s details of how society perceives the festival more fascinating. As a youngster, he and his friends would jump over the bonfire, sing songs and be merry. Some people perceived the youngster’s behaviour as anti-social, and it reminded me of the northern English tradition of mischief night, which I’d certainly call anti-social today! I’m sure the festival was fun; Nury called it a “real joy”. He told me the current regime has banned the festival, as they associate it with “arkesh-parast” (or “fire worshippers”) and incompatible with religious laws. How strange, then, to think that Bonfire Night too is, at its core, a celebration of intolerance of different religions, even if more people associate it with simple fun, hearty food and cosiness today.
Early Autumn is one of my favourite times of year. I have a lovely childhood memory of trying to catch falling leaves in Chorlton park; my mother telling me catching one would bring good luck! In later life I have tried to pass this piece of gentle folk-lore on to new generations. One particular occasion was when I was a community service volunteer, after finishing at university, at a school for “mal-adjusted boys” at Ramsden Heath, Nr. Billericay, Essex.
I also associate this season with fresh starts. It is the beginning of the academic year and coincides with my birthday in the second week of September. At university the first week of the Autumn term traditionally known as “Freshers’ Week”. A society I belonged to at my college in Cardiff used arranged coach trips to welcome the new students. A memorable visit one year was made to Hereford Cathedral and Symonds Yat in the Wye Valley. The myriad of different shades of greens, reds, and oranges was an unforgettable panorama of great beauty.
More recently I have regularly made use of the coolness of the temperature to take short sightseeing vacations around Britain. My excursions have taken me to the Isle of Man, Llandudno and Blaenau Ffestiniog in North Wales, Edinburgh and Inverness in Scotland as well as Morecambe and Worcester in England.
My favourite trip, however was one I made to Lincoln, it was in the bad old days when my Manchester City were languishing in the third tier of the football pyramid. After three days of fine sunny weather over the weekend when I visited the old prison, the cathedral and the castle, the heavens opened as I made my way to Sincil Bank, the home ground of Lincoln City F.C., where my team had a Tuesday night game. Wet and miserable I trudged back to my Bed and Breakfast with my “City” having lost 2-1.
Autumn was such an evocative theme. I was still thinking about our discussions a few days later on a lovely visit to Yorkshire Sculpture Park. It was misty, the trees were just beginning to change colour and some leaves had already drifted to the ground. I spent quite some time admiring Buddha, a sculpture by Niki de Saint Phalle from every angle. The meditations at the beginning of our sessions help me so much to focus on the topic. This sculpture reminded me of that mindfulness practice.
To me, the use of brightly coloured glass, mirror & stone mosaic pieces symbolises our thoughts, memories and experiences coming together to create something new.