Many years ago in one of my first jobs, when I was much younger and less inclined to think before speaking, a colleague declared how much she loved her perfume because it reminded her of the smell of autumn.
“Dead leaves,” I agreed enthusiastically, thinking about crunching through forest paths and inhaling that wonderful woody leaf-mould scent.
“My perfume does not smell of dead leaves!” she said huffily, and refused to speak to me for the rest of the afternoon.
This unfortunate exchange makes me smile every autumn when I see the leaves falling and smell the change in the air. I love the rustling, shuffling sound the leaves make as you walk through piles of them, and the crispy dryness as they break into a thousand pieces under your feet. When they’re wet and slippery they’re not so enticing, true, but it’s the cool, sharp autumn days I like, when you can wrap up and anticipate the coming winter.
Autumn is obviously a season that speaks to many people, from poets to the New England “leaf peepers”, Nature’s final grand colourful gesture of the year is something that nobody can miss. It’s not just people either. We had a dog once that used to love the autumn leaves. He used to wait for you to shuffle through them and kick them into the air, trying to catch each leaf as it fell before scrabbling through them himself as if to try to make them fly back up into the air. Our current dog is less than impressed with the autumn leaf situation. He doesn’t want you to shuffle them or kick them and will actually make a point of walking around piles of them instead of over them which I find more than a little amusing given that this is the dog that will dive into any available scuddy water at any opportunity! He is, however, very interested in the squirrels which visit our garden to bury nuts and pinch tulip bulbs, hopping across the leaf-strewn grass to find the perfect spot to hide their treasure.
Autumn, to me, feels like a time of winding down. The earth is getting ready for the “quiet time” of winter. The trees’ beautiful leaves are the last fanfare before they stand as stark skeletons for the next few months, reminding us that winter is on it’s way and waiting for the world to turn and the sun to warm the soil again,. Just like the squirrels hiding their nuts, we instinctively gather what we need for the cold months and whilst we might not actually hibernate, we reduce our sphere of outdoor activity and keep warm within our houses, waiting for the spring.
Is it a sad season? A little, I think. But all seasons change and a new one is always around the corner. It’s one thing we can be sure of, and that’s not a sad thing at all.