Last week, I was still believing in a longish end of summer that would have trailed its mists and sunshine a little more. Six days, two loud thunderstorms and several heavy showers later, notwithstanding a sharp decrease of temperature and a laden grey sky where clouds could not be chased and banished by a fierce wind, I have to surrender to a precocious autumn.
Of course, there is still the first part that looks like the end of summer with its “mellow fruitfulness”, but it smells more of the mists and fog of pre-winter.
There is lots of water – rivers, brooks, rivulets and ponds in the Dordogne, therefore mist easily turns into fog and humidity creeps and seeps inside the houses, unwanted, through open doors or carelessly windows left open a little too long.
Apples and plums do reign over the fruits, marrows have come on the market stalls, soon the children will collect the gleaming fruits of the guinea chestnuts for fights in the playground and in a while chestnuts will be gathered and stored to eat with the turkey at Christmas.
Meanwhile, the vineyards are almost ready for grape harvest in the South of the département, near Bergerac and Montbazillac. The weather is studied with scientific concentration to get the perfect grapes and the right ripeness.
At home, the house is slowly covered by red Virginia creeper. The Girls are reminded each day that mornings and evenings call for jumpers now, that can be sometimes discarded during the day when it does not rain. Our diet is slowly turning to warmer meals and soups will soon be usual instead of salads on the dinner table.
I fear the incoming seasons: the deepening autumn and the bleak winter. I already miss the light, the sun, the colours of spring and summer even if I am not a fanatic of high temperature. For the first time, this year, I feel the rain and the cold creeping in my bones, and the sadness of the declining year instead of the joy of the gathering of “the fruits of the earth” and the prospect of a new year. I would gladly stand like lizards, basking in the sun, without moving and wishing for time to stop. Just a while, please, just a while!
Of course, there are still books to be read and music to be listened to. There will be pleasures of a warm home and closed shutters and the soft glow of lamps. Before that, there is the sky to be seen through coloured leaves, last brilliant flowers, hopefully friends to come, cooking to be done, writings to be written…
But I miss the smile and the laughs of those dear lives who have come away too soon and I hear their silent footfalls in the passages of the house or their voices in the garden. There are empty places around the table that no one will fill again.
Autumn is like Janus: one face for the happiness of the harvest and the rich, deep colours of a satiated earth, and one face for the sorrow of the incoming bareness of the earth and the night over the world. This is rest of course, as the departed ones just rest after a life full of joys and noises and sorrows and loves and worries.
But, what for us who remain?
Hope and confidence that springtime will come again.