Michaelmas Day

Today is Michaelmas Day. A day I keep marked in my diary, coinciding – as it does – more or less – with the Autumn Equinox. Here, the dark gained ascendance over the light a couple of days ago. It seems worthy of marking, for it represents the true beginning of autumn and winter, the season of fading light, the time of year that sends us deep into the dark for a few weeks. But it is only a few weeks. Less than three months from today the light will begin to creep back in. Although it never seems like it, the weather and the human calendar being somewhat disconnected from the earth’s calendar. And even this morning, the sun is shining brightly and clearly albeit a shorter time. Perhaps it is a question of quality over quantity. Perhaps, too, we value the light so much more because there is less of it.

There have been some gloomy, wet days in the past week, days when it scarcely seemed light at all. They will become commoner, so a morning like today’s seems all the more surprising and all the more precious.

And yet I am maybe getting ahead of myself. It is still autumn, after all. The garden has not given up the ghost. Not by a long way. From my window I can see the Hawthorn berries and a rosehip or two waiting for the birds to strip them later in the year. The Rowan berries have already been taken from the front garden, but the Pyracantha – yellow and red – is still laden. Most of the trees and bushes remain full of leaves, even as they start to turn: but the prevailing colour is still green. The Sedum ‘Herbstfreude’ (Autumn Joy) is flowering and there are new Dahlias to pick most days.

Long-tailed Tits have returned to the garden after being absent for quite a while. They arrive in gangs, marauding through the trees for a while before heading off to other gardens. They ‘do the rounds’ and will visit the garden several times in a day, calling their high-pitched calls to announce their arrival. They love the fat ball feeders as well as the insects they can hoover up in the Birch tree, aphids and late caterpillars, as well as the myriad spiders which are now so visible in the garden. The same spiders whose nests the Tits will use to construct their ball-nests when Spring comes round again.

The low sun catches the leaves, which seem thinner now as the year turns. Translucent Katsura and Blueberry leaves glow in the light. Apples too, fewer now after a windy couple of days, shine on the tree even as Blackbirds feast on the windfalls. There will be apple cake for tea.

So, no prayers to St Michael from me, but still a marking of time passing and the turning of the world.

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