The Week that Kindled Autumn

Abbey Craig

High on the grey rock
autumn lights a burning torch
oak among alders.

It’s like watching a slow fire from my window. The beeches are turning coppery, the birch yellow, the maples red and the sycamores every shade of flame from sepia to bronze. Bringing Lucy home from school is complicated by leaf scuffling and walks ‘in the forest’ – the avenues of lime and cherry trees that were planted on the river bank only thirty-five years ago, but which have always been part of my acquaintance with the territory of rain.

On Sunday we went further afield, to Aberfoyle, where we saw this amazing stagshorn fungus. We go there often, and I’ve written three poems about it, for spring, summer and autumn.

Naming the Autumn

A mite in the hills’ green folds,
I walk, naming the autumn –
coal tit, oakmoss, bracket fungus.
I mark the whiskered outgrowths
of blaeberries and whin, and hollows
where primroses will flavour spring
with sunlight and honey. I know
which woods are good for burning
and where the Highland fault line cuts
the ancient metamorphic rock
from fertile sandstones in the south.
A net of sweeping birch twigs sifts
the wind, and catches strands of lichen,
ice-green and hairy. Taxonomy
fails me. I cannot bring to mind
its name, or whether it’s the sort
I need to make a winter pot-pourri.
No matter. The art of knowing
is knowing when to let things be.

Now I feel I should do one for winter!I can’t say I like it so much since they put in the zipline, but it’s hard to grudge people an experience that they obviously enjoy so much.

One new thing I do like, however, is the wildlife hide, where we saw this irresistibly cute resident.

I am glad to know that the squirrel and bird populations are going to be supported this year, because I’ve been shocked to see how few berries and acorns there are. Last year, I know, was a ‘mast year’ when trees bear heavily, so I expected a certain falling off, but the weather has been so poor that wildlife is going to struggle if we don’t help. The good people at the Loch of the Lowes were only saying yesterday how many underweight hedgehogs they’ve seen, so the plan Lucy and I have made for a hedgehog house looks very timely!

Can I just give a last call for submissions fro the Stravaig magazine? We’d like artwork or filmclips as well as poetry or essays if anyone has them, on the theme of ‘coast to coast’. Submissions to burnedthumb@gmail.com, please, by 1st November.

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