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.