This has been a different autumn.
In some years there is a splendid range of colour throughout the countryside, particularly here on Deeside. This year a few trees and shrubs have burst into vivid colour, but they are the exception, and stand out like signal flares across the landscape. In our own garden, the birches have not glowed yellow as usual, but have lost most of their leaves early. The leaves that remain on these trees are mostly a sodden green.
For years I barely noticed these variations in the characteristics of a season – one autumn seemed much like another. I should have looked up more often from my desk. For ten years we lived in Orkney, where the first September gale blew off leaves from such trees as there were, before they could turn to gold.
I have not posted for some time because we have been back to Orkney visiting family and friends. There was easy internet access, but no time to post. It was a happy round of beach walking, visiting, chatting, tea drinking and cake eating. We have now returned home.
Today we met with a close relation who is in the early stages of dementia, though she is only a few months older than I am. She remembers little of what is happening from day to day. She catches the eye of strangers and speaks to them happily and unselfconsciously. She loves small dogs and small children with a touching enthusiasm. She lives entirely in the moment, though past times still haunt her.
Like Orkney trees in autumn, she is suddenly fragile, vulnerable and exposed after a great storm, with no gentle transition to a harsh winter.