Autumn and it’s unbecoming becoming

Written at the very end of August 2019

On my daily cycles in and out of Oxford, up the gently sloping woodstock road, around the Wolvercote Roundabout, and out along the A40 to my village and home; I have seen the dusty turn of the summer slide gaspingly into the autumn.

Strewn along the pavement, now, are the first fall of golden leaves, not yet crunching to the asphalt. Windfall plums, apples, and a rare pear, lie stricken in the curb. Oxford has always been a kind of country city. Out past Wolvercote, the fields beside the cycle path grew tall, went golden, and have since been razed to stubble. Wheels of gold dotting some of them. Others bare.

This is summer’s dog-end. The last few drags, dragging themselves out, and we’re sucking it close to the filter. Is it summer? Or is it autumn? is it becoming-autumn – then neither nor seasonal inbetween.

In between winter and spring there’s a similar sense of becoming, but one that feels exciting; and one in which there seems to be an almost pin-pointable turn. You’ve stopped wearing your jacket out without even realising it. The crocuses have been out a while, the bluebells already hazy, the birds already singing the sun up.

Autumn/winter and spring/summer have no true cut-off. They merge into each other. It’s Hallowe’en and then Christmas and then valentines day before you’ve even taken stock of things. Time slides under you like water, or ice, or wind.

The same happens for spring to summer. You have a blisteringly hot day in March where all the dads are in the park with their shirts off drinking beers with eachother, their little white bellies getting pink because it’s 21 degrees. The ice cream van is singing through streets newly warmed, it’s almost like spring was never here at all (except it will snow in April just to mess with the usual procession of things) but spring itself just slips into summer, like dipping your hand into water that’s blood temperature.

Summer, though, is the season we watch leave; trying to hold autumn back. It’s a season of endings, of coming to fruition, and of maturity. Yet, due to years of conditioning and school it’s a season of new beginnings, too.

Autumn, when it arrives, exists in stasis. It’s Elysium.

 AUTUMN – John Clare

The thistledown’s flying, though the winds are all still,
On the green grass now lying, now mounting the hill,
The spring from the fountain now boils like a pot;
Through stones past the counting it bubbles red-hot.
The ground parched and cracked is like overbaked bread,
The greensward all wracked is, bents dried up and dead.
The fallow fields glitter like water indeed,
And gossamers twitter, flung from weed unto weed.
Hill-tops like hot iron glitter bright in the sun,
And the rivers we’re eying burn to gold as they run;
Burning hot is the ground, liquid gold is the air;
Whoever looks round sees Eternity there.

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