I'm writing this on the 1st September, shortly after our quarterly domestic "discussion" regarding the changing of the seasons. One of us, I'm not saying who, subscribes to the meteorological system of dividing the year into 3 monthly chunks. According to this system, autumn starts today, and lasts until 1st December. Someone else, who may or may not like an argument for argument's sake and could be described as "a bit of a hippy" prefers the astronomical system whereby the season turns at the equinoxes and solstices. So this year autumn will start on 23rd September, so if you want three more weeks of summer, now is your chance to grab it. I asked on twitter when people celebrated the start of autumn and OutLET Play came back with just about the best answer I could have hoped for, pointing out that two celebrations are better than one, and therefore both should be celebrated. Hurrah! Let's do that!
I have to admit however, that the autumn signs are very much in the air (literally and metaphorically) as well as underfoot. The first bit of nature I noticed this morning as I stepped outside was a cluster of glorious mushrooms on the wee patch of grass opposite the flat. Lately I've been noticing fractal patterns in everything, at least, I *think* they are fractals. Those branching patterns that look like maps of busy cities or satellite pictures of a river delta. At the weekend it was tree roots (a root map, if you will) and today the skin of the mushrooms. On a metaphorical level, The New York Times had clearly got the autumn mushroom memo with the Wordle of today being fungi (got it in three since you ask). Beech nuts are abundant this year, I don't think I've ever crunched so many underfoot, and have been surprised on a couple of occasions as I have accidentally spiked my finger on one, absentmindedly pocketed. I've not seen so many acorns so far, but on a recent jaunt round Backmuir Woods with Jill from Drawing on Green Spaces, we did collect a few for her making acorn cap ink mission, art and nature gloriously intertwined. Edible recipes have also been popping up on my social media feed, blackberry cakes, rowan berry sweets or rosehip jelly. However much I learn, I am somehow often nervous to forage food, but I did collect some watermint last week and dried it (instructions here) to make a wonderfully delicate mint tea.
My conker collection is growing just as I reached the perfect reading accompaniment to it, Wild Child by Patrick Barkham. Chapter 9 Collecting starts: "Autumn brings a special currency raining down on the corner of our garden at home." He goes on: "Autumn is a time to make collections. It feels right to collect from the natural world at harvest time; we're gathering what has grown, ripened, fallen or is about to fall." More distressingly, later in the chapter he notes that the word "conker" was removed from the Oxford Junior Dictionary in 2011, becoming memorialised in 2017 in The Lost Words by Robert MacFarlane and Jackie Morris. You can hear the poem to the conker here, but I shall leave you with the last line, as I head off outside to see if I can add to my collection:
"Only one thing can conjure conker and that thing is tree."