Sunday, October 29, 2006

Two views of autumn

click photo to enlarge
"There is a harmony in autumn,
And a lustre in its sky.
Which through the summer is not heard or seen,
As if it could not be, as if it had not been!" by Percy Bysshe Shelley (1792-1822), English poet

There are two views of autumn: the unwelcome beginning of an end, or a cherished phase in an endless cycle. If you live for the brightness and warmth of summer and the sun, then you are likely to belong to the first camp. If, however, you delight in the changes that each season brings, then you view autumn as a time to be anticipated and enjoyed, and see it as a welcome chapter in the year.

But, it has to be said that living in the city can dull your appreciation of the change from summer to autumn. You notice, of course, the drop in temperature, the shorter, duller days, the leaves and flowers becoming distressed, changing colour and disappearing, and the onset of misty mornings. It's the subtler changes that the city dweller can miss. Things like the departure of the swallows and wheatears, the arrival of fieldfares, redwings, grey geese, and the increasing numbers of resident species - blackbirds, starlings and pied wagtails for example. Living in the city you don't see the changes to the arable fields as crops are harvested and winter wheat starts to clothe the dark earth with bright green, or the redistribution of sheep and cattle as they foresake the fields that become too wet in the colder months. Manicured parks and gardens often lack the fungi that flourish in autumn, and the wet, dank smell of mouldering vegetation is frequently absent from urban areas.

I was brought up in a rural area and took many of these things for granted. When I lived in a city I missed them. I came to realise that strenuous efforts must be made by individuals and public authorities to ensure that the natural world is cultivated and protected in urban settings. Where this happens individuals have a better understanding and appreciation of nature and their place in it.

The first of the photographs above was taken near where I live. The trees' leaves - here beech - were changing colour and falling to cover the woodland floor in orange/brown. The tip of this elegant curved branch seemed a good subject to represent rural autumn. The second shot was taken in London, and shows a container-grown tree (silver birch?) on the roof garden of a penthouse flat by the Thames. Its leaves were also changing to reflect the season, and doubtless bringing enjoyment to its owner and all who could see it. Both shots were taken with a long zoom - the first to throw the background out of focus, and the second to reach the tree!
photographs & text (c) T. Boughen