When does Autumn begin ? September the 1st, with its implications of back to school, across the yawning bank-holiday-less expanse of the ‘ember’ months ? Or perhaps September the 22nd, after the equinox, with its hope that perhaps September will still be warm enough for shirtsleeves and sunglasses. The latter is perhaps the optimist’s view, or should that be the pessimists when we factor in global warming ? Of course, an Antipodean would tell us that Autumn begins in March, cooling things down ready for the snows of August, but since they’re half the world away, they’ll have to shout it to be heard.
Either way, there’s no escaping that Autumn, if not already here, is texting to say that it’s on the bus and only a couple of stops away. Not many leaves have fallen yet, but they’re looking less than healthy, and a few acorns and conkers are already crunching underfoot. It would make an interesting experiment to take such a tree as it gears up to wind down, and transport it to the land of the transportees to see how quickly it works out that it needs to start working out. One supposes that the reverse would also be true, and that some poor twig could be kept in perpetual slumber, not dead, but definitely not putting any rings down.
No seasonal blues in the Autumn browns at this week’s workshop. Alan Chambers instead thrust himself and his key deep into the lock of the bleak Midwinter, while Michael Harris brought us a bookmark to sink into, and John Hurley has been penning a chorus of disapproval while listening to the hold music. For Owen Gallagher, memories of his father are reminders of how few of them he has, while James Priestman has been lurking in an Elsinore graveyard and was surprised to hear a young prince trying out some Biblical metaphors. Martin Choules, meanwhile, has been eyeing up some modern portraits and found himself wishing that the artists had cracked a joke or two with their sitters, followed by Caroline Am Bergris noticing the signs of age, not in the mirror, but in the flotsam of daily life, and finally Daphne Gloag has been talking to her bees, who gave her a few sharp retorts in return.
Here in the Archives, every March we undergo a thorough Spring clean, and it must therefore follow that the previous Fall we underwent an Autumn clutter, where dust, litter and tat accumulates in the corners. A look around the vaults with a season-adapted eye reveals that this process has already started, with for example postcards from the interns’ holidays already taken off the office fridge and moved to the Drawer of Stuff besides the lockless keys and money-off vouchers for services we’ll never use, all the things which one feels cannot be thrown away but which we vaguely hope will evaporate by themselves.
Some poets have described having such a drawer in their minds, where they file away a good title or an interesting rhyming pair, ready to be pulled out in an emergency that never comes. If only Emily Dickinson had practised such mental tidiness, she may have had the necessary words to hand and not been forced to use yet another placeholder hyphen until such time as they presented themselves.