Last week, a question in the Creative Countryside Community piqued my interest, not solely as a stimulating inquiry in its own right, but because it was a question my brother had posed in our siblings’ WhatsApp group only hours before:
‘Do you acknowledge the start of autumn on September 1st (meteorological) or the autumn equinox (astronomical date (21st / 22nd))?’
As I started to think through my own answer and reasons, the thought process inevitably turned to a love letter to September, and everything contained within this beautiful month of exhale, transition and metamorphosis.
It’s hard to pin any of the seasons down to a single day, to herald a definitive ‘arrival’, but for me, autumn is especially hard to do so. I’ve experienced August days full to the brim with lashing rain, thick jumpers and cosy comfort food indoors. Conversely, I’ve viewed the embers of September days attired in shorts and t-shirt, from the tops of Derbyshire moorland or Sussex Downland, with a day’s worth of hot sun glowing in the pinkness of sunburned skin.
For me, autumn is a season that ebbs slowly in from the very edges of nature itself: it bleeds; it seeps slowly. September is simultaneously late summer and early autumn. These seasons rub shoulders confidently together – a natural friction, yet an unspoken harmony. It’s a month of ratios, rather than a definitive start and ending. And it’s that unpredictable and heady mix of magic that makes September so entrancing.
September is a month in which we’re suddenly jolted back into a state of alertness. For too long, we’ve been drunk upon the overflowing cup of summer: the long hot days, warm nights, and seemingly ever-present light. Now it’s the quickening dusk, almost tidal in its encroachment; the fleeting beauty of dying leaves that pulse all manner of yellows: just some of the markers that sharpen the senses.
The wilful abandon of taking summer for granted is ended with an enforced observance of sobriety: our eyes do the harvesting, as we eagerly stockpile the mental stores to satiate our wistful longings in the barren depths of winter. Moments are magnified, appreciated; tended.
Harvesting is not limited to the eyes: the garden continues to take away with one hand and give with the other. I spend a weekend dead-heading, de-potting and re-arranging, packing away a summer’s worth of organic detritus, whilst runner beans send forth new produce, pumpkins continue to swell, and tomatoes redden upon the vine.
I don’t care what your argument: no-one can convince me that late summer’s transition into autumn isn’t one of this country’s most magnificent times of year. But September is the magical moment in our natural calendar: a month of harmonious tension.
And where our seasons rub up against each other in a beautiful friction, the resultant sparks ignite a vision of truth that’s often hard to comprehend.