Gathering In

The sun passes lower in the sky, bringing the quickening rush that starts the long winter months. Tresses of drying peppers spread like flames across sheds, turning the stone walls into scenes of tropical design. The elegant stems of onions that have spoked all summer above the swelling bulbs are plaited, woven together like hands in a dance, and hung out of the way of snow. Felled trees are hauled by donkey from the forests, wearing a glaze of lichens and ice. They’re split by axe throughout the day, the thud of blade against wood marking the hours, and stacked to face what is left of the sun. 

The air warms slowly. The heat of an autumn day can still stun, but it never stays. It slips out long before sundown, leaving a sudden bright chill in its place that sparks the lighting of fires. Long before dark wood-smoke corkscrews above roofs, hangs over the valley in a luminous haze, like a thin and shimmering curtain thrown over the sky.

Walnuts leave the trees, brought down by winds and rains, or slashed from the canopy by men and women waving sticks. Their hands are tattooed black from the dye in the husks and they show them with pride. Heaving sacks onto their shoulders they move from tree to tree, walk the winding paths home before dark. Windfall apples cloud the meadows with their scent and wind ruffles the grasses, sets them swaying in a pale prairie sweep. The paths of animals are briefly remembered in frost.

Leaves yellow and fall, sift down into deep reefs. Canes from the gardens are bundled like thatch. Late butterflies chase the light, their colours fading to a dull forgery of summer. Small gaps of sun appear through rents in their wings, a reminder of how brief is their empire of flight. Thistle seed drifts towards the following spring and coils of smoke climb the sky. The crack of the axes thins into quiet. And a last swell of light sends up a cold shower of stars.

35 thoughts on “Gathering In

  1. Lovely, Hoff. I’ve always loved autumn and your post seems to me full of warmth and affection for this most beautifully understated of seasons, even as the chill at dawn and dusk presages the coming lockdown of winter. Though your words reflect the change of season as it is particular to your home, you also capture that more universal essence of the ‘gathering-in’ of autumn. Some cracking pics too.

    1. Thanks, Pete! There does seem to be something near universal for those that experience northern autumns regarding its moods and essence. It’s certainly my favourite season, until I fall in love with winter again, and then spring etc. Though if I had to choose – and I’m not sure I’d like to live somewhere without distinctive seasons – then it would be autumn. Hope you’re enjoying your own and delighted you liked the images as well!

    1. Thank you very much, Bridget! Sorry for the late reply but your comment got lost in the spam box for a while, which it didn’t deserve…

      Thanks for reading and best wishes,

      Julian

    1. You’re too kind, Savvy Sister! Thank you, as usual…

      I didn’t see any message of you joining the Facebook page (or my own page), so let me know if you had a problem at all. Looking forward to having you along!

      Cheers!
      Julian

  2. I’m not sure if this is prose or poetry; although probably the best description is poetry written as prose. If this was food, I would say “delicious.” BTW Julian, what are those red twigs in the top photo? I am fairly certain we do not have those in the tropics.

    1. Thanks, Rex, for your very find words! I’m quite honoured by the thought of you finding the post “delicous”! So, what you’re seeing in the photo are rosehips, the fruit of wild roses which become a startling red colour at this time of year. They’re great picked to use as a tea, especially right after the first frosts when they start to become soft. Of course, the rose thorns are waiting to make the harvest all that more interesting for you! Hope all is well on your side of the world!

      Best wishes,

      Julian

  3. An exquisitely lovely prose poem about place. Stunning, succinct images.

    I enjoyed your essay in Terrain.org, and I’m glad to see I can read more here.

    Sher from Oregon, USA

    1. Great to hear from you, Sher, and delighted that you liked the recent post about a season I adore. Along with your kind words I like to say thanks also for taking the time to read the Terrain.org essay; it’s wonderful to hear that you enjoyed it. I just stopped by your own blog and look forward to exploring a little bit of your part of the world!

      Thanks again and best wishes to you,

      Julian

  4. Wonderful observations, Julian, of the many small signs given by both man and nature that autumn is upon us. You’ve nicely captured the way that the rhythm of autumn is so much different than the measure of other seasons. Reading your words took me back to my autumns of yesteryears as well as to Northern Greece 2011.

    1. Many thanks for your kind words, swapna! It’s a delight to read your comment in the middle of a warm and sunny autumn afternoon when a few butterflies are seeking out the last garden flowers. Thanks for stopping by to read; much appreciated!

      Best wishes,
      Julian

  5. You are an impressive writer; the genre, which could be called prose poetry inspired by the World Out There, is a neglected one these days. I’ll be back to read more!

    1. Thanks, Larry, for your very generous words! Delighted to hear you like the writing and appreciate you wanting to read more. Hope to stop by your own blog later today!

      Until then, cheers!

      Julian

  6. I am always delighted to find notice of your new post in my in-box. I know I am in for a delicious treat of image and word that will carry me to away to the world you describe so exquisitely. This post was no exception. I love the butterfly colors fading to a dull forgery of summer, and the thistle seed drifting to next spring. I smell the corkscrewing wood smoke. Thank you for another lovely journey.

    1. Thank you for such a lovely comment, Janet. Can’t tell you how pleased I am to know you look forward to the arrival of a post in your inbox! Thanks for the very generous compliments and for taking the time to read, comment and join in the journey. Much appreciated…

      Best wishes,
      Julian

  7. Every sentance is such a joy to read – so carefully observed and crafted, so evocative and so inspiring. Thank you for the walk through this magical valley.

    Keep watching,
    Cindy

    1. Thanks, Cindy. Always delightful to hear from you and I’m very pleased you liked this little tour. I’m quite certain you’d adore the actual wander even more!

      My best wishes,
      Julian

  8. “The heat of an autumn day can still stun, but it never stays.” Happily, your words both stun and stay, Julian, and I look forward to them as much as I anticipate autumn, my very favorite season. LOVELY, every phrase.

  9. Yes, even here in post summer baked middle east, autumn rings her bell, quietly; a perfect V of cormorants agains an azure clear sky reminds me of the season and its movements as families cluster around olive tree’s gently ‘milking’ the branches of bitter fruit as the distant muezzin, getting louder and softer as the cool wind changes direction; reminds me ‘God is indeed great..’
    As always, an elegiac and poetic hymn to your surroundings Sid both image and word..

    1. Thanks, Sid! Love your description of the cormorants and the cool wind. Autumn has its own special features and textures depending on where you are, and I’d love to experiece those of the Middle East some day. Hope you’re well and speak soon,
      Julian

  10. Wonderfully said and beautifully illustrated. The rose hips and the firewood shot blew me away. :)

    My favorite season is NOW! Doesn’t matter what time of year.

    1. Couldn’t agree more about your favourite season! There’s no finer time of the year than the one we’re in. Thanks for reading, and delighted you liked the images! I keep meaning to add a thought to your mention of words and images on your own post recently. Will stop by soon and add a word or two. In the meantime, hope you’re enjoying the now!

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