“Come with me for a walk in the autumn leaves” are some of the forcefully sung lyrics about a relationship at crunch-point that accompany the viseral guitar sound of the Huxton Creepers in their song Autumn Leaves. Keats wrote more tranquilly of a “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness” in his poem To Autumn. Despite living in Australia where indigenous plants are not seasonally desiduous, my picture of autumn is still shaped by deciduous trees losing their now coloured leaves and by the sight of children and animals frolicking in piles of fallen foliage. Another Australian 80’s band Pseudo Echo’s album Autumnal Park (which didn’t originally contain the title track) has a cover that shows a park in autumn as seen through horizontal slat blinds. What they were inferring with this title I’m not sure – it certainly wasn’t the end of their career, but rather the beginning; perhaps a sense of varied musical tracks like leaves with different colours, or perhaps they just liked the sound of the words. I certainly find a park of deciduous trees beautiful in autumn.
Each autumn I try to make a local pilgrimage to somewhere my senses can drink in the range of red, orange and yellow hues in the cooling air and where I can admire the variety of coloured shapes that cover the ground. Ashes, maples, oaks, liquid ambers, forest pansies, poplars and other trees provide an autumnal feast for the eyes. It is more than just the leaves I want to absorb at this time of year. In a world where we have largely lost a sense of seasons in our disconnection from the agrarian, from religious calendars and other seasonal differentiators, many things that were once special – being only available at one particular time of year -can now be found year-round. Autumn is a transitional season in my mind, it signals the end of hot summers and prepares us for the early darkness and cold of winter days. Autumn is still a sign that plants, animals and humans experience seasonal changes, year by year and throughout each lifespan.
Autumn can be poignant – a metaphor or elegy for lives or relationships drawing to a close, as in the Huxton Creepers song – but as a season where fruit ripen and are ready to harvest, where trees change their state, it can also alude to change; to growth and maturity. In Gilmore Girls, Rory’s first kiss with her beau Dean comes during her hometown Stars Hollow’s autumn festival as the leaves are changing colour. Her mother Lorelai has to process her daughter’s growing independence and adulthood as Rory confides this life first to her friend Lane before her mother and Rory has to negotiate the awkwardness of her first boyfriend becoming a part of her traditional mother/daughter movie night.
Wherever you find yourself in autumn, find a park where the leaves are falling and take stock of what season your life is in. Whether you find yourself weeping at an ending as the leaves fall and the trees are laid bare or whether you’re feeling joyful in the midst of your life, all the more completely as you spy the exquisite shades of the autumn leaves, find a park in autumn and mark your season.