It’s a relief when autumn comes, the heat, the haze, the midges resolving into clear uncrowded air. The lurid green profusion mutes itself and gives way, the bracken curling and bedding down in rich rusty banks, the rowan and aspen crisping up and turning gold. The mountains solidify, meeting the loch in deep blue glimpses, as the gaps begin appearing again: pathways, sightlines, ways into the world.
It’s a relief when autumn comes, the mornings becoming keen and cone-sharp and the evenings becoming “airish”, a word I first heard yesterday from a friend. He used it to describe the coolness in the dusk now, the encroaching winter chill, but it makes me think also of “airy”, the way you’d describe a narrow mountain ridge, vista and distance radiating out in all directions, and this is the truth now too.
It’s a relief when autumn comes, the world unpicking and uncovering itself, and the sun coming closer. Its fine rays filter through the emptying branches and rake through the leaf litter, sifting our thoughts as they loosen and fall and settle into dry rustling drifts. We could sweep them up or we could walk through them, enjoying their crackling quiet fire while the sun holds us, body to body, in its steadfast pale embrace.
Lochinver, Assynt, Scotland / Cwm Garw, Glamorgan, South Wales
18th September 2022
beneath the feathered yellow haze of the larch
and the tiny gold coins of the birch leaves
the last green fires alight
Culag Wood, Lochinver, Sutherland, Scotland
26th September 2020
Bog asphodel, Arkle, looking over to Ben Stack, Sutherland, Scotland
16th September 2020
Tonight we’ll go in search of bonfires, good fires,
fires of the hearth.
“When there is nothing left to burn, you must set fire to yourself.”
That’s what we’ll do then.
We’ll live for entrance and dancing,
in lithe leaping flames,
Cwm Garw, Glamorgan, South Wales / Glasgow, Scotland
5th November 2015 / 2006
Inishmore, Aran Islands, Ireland / Inis Mór, Oileáin Árann, Éire
19th September 2015
Life changes after death. It becomes less about what you do than what you notice; and after you died it was the tiniest things which sustained me.
It was a sudden fall – within days of your death there were leaves on the ground – and out walking I’d find myself rescued by a bright glimpse of colour. I found consolation in all the hues but solace specifically in red, as if it matched something in me, as you did. I became obsessed by the search for the perfect crimson, spending wet mornings on my knees, wrist-deep in the fallen foliage, scouring and scrutinising, desperately prospecting for a silent, scarlet resolution.
I don’t know if it was the intensity of red that soothed me or its tenderness but it seemed to me then that everything came back to this primary, this primal colour. It’s the colour of beginnings – our bloody animal births and the red tips and tinges of vegetation at the beginning of spring. And it’s the colour of glad ends – the rich wooded flame of autumn, the dusty suffusion of sunset. Seasonal and diurnal alteration. It’s the colour of change, the colour of vivacity, the colour of you.
Red became you. A “red-headed angel”, someone once called you, and you were: red-headed, red-hearted, red-blooded, red-tongued – and red-threaded, as I now am, dressing myself up in vermilion plumage to write to you. Even now – months after your death – the colour comforts and condenses me. Perhaps the writing does too. After all, we both found solace in writing – in delving down, in pulling up, in drawing the truth to the surface and inscribing it there: the live line, the pulsing current. We wrote to keep it going, to give ourselves something to hold onto – until yours broke – a red line of continuity, a red thread of faith.
Bryngarw Country Park, South Wales / Montréal, Québec, Canada
15th November 2013 / Autumn 2004