I always think there's something magical about heading into Autumn. At the weekend dew covered lawns shrouded in dawn's rolling mists, gave way to clear blue afternoon skies, rising from the landscape like a Phoenix to create a hot and yet quiet day. Only in Autumn do these days occur, when by mid afternoon everything is quiet, sounds travel for great distances producing that special stillness Autumn provides. It is hard to believe it will become cool again by nightfall. But it does.
I had a weekend on my own this weekend, and decided by choice not to leave the house. I occasionally do this when feeling jaded with the modern world, or exhausted. By nature I'm quite a solitary person, but also love being part of a social group, often found holding court in the midst of a gathering. But growing up an only child, spending time on my own and not having to perform the mental agility of genteel conversation with friends or family is a real joy for me.
And so it was this weekend. I spent a lot of time just relaxing, thinking, emptying my mind of all thought. Avoiding the news both broadcast and printed helped, best of all though, not driving for a whole 3 days. We all rush and bustle about too much and never take time to stop and stare. Sometimes in this mood I will wander the countryside by myself, often heading to West Dorset or down into Devon, but this weekend with the warm weather I just sat and read, sat and thought, relaxed outdoors in the sun, generally doing absolutely nothing. I know I'm lucky being able to do this, when many other people have family responsibilities or work commitments, but then again why not enjoy being able to do this. One day I will not be able to.
My job is fantastic, but can be exhausting. On Thursday I spent a most enjoyable day watching stone curlews at a secret location in Wessex, a busy 15 hour working day. But to hear those thick-knee birds calling in the night as they woke from their day-roost was worth all the planning and the miles. Even the creeping tiredness as I drove back down the M4 at 1am on Friday morning, failed to dampen my mood. But even when I arrived at home, the wildlife thrill hadn't stopped. Unpacking the car at the dead of night, the second brood nestlings in my house martin nest were twittering. I stood in front of my house. No other sound could be heard in the area except the gentle squabbling of baby house martins, fidgeting in the nest. Young birds that in a few short weeks will head a long way south on their first migration, much as the stone curlews, I'd seen earlier in the evening. Wildlife encounters never ever make me feel other that uplifted.
On Saturday, for once I had time to idly scan across long forgotten books in the office and by chance pulled out a book by Ralph Wightman, called Watching the Certain Things. This book had been withdrawn from a library years ago and I bought it for the lino cut images but then, had never read it. Opening the book idly the penultimate chapter was entitled "Solitude". I love these coincidences when a feeling in the hear and now often manifests itself as an action or deed which exactly mimics the beholders view or thoughts at that time. I read this chapter; he lived in Dorset and described wonderfully the area of West Dorset I go to for solitude at times of worry. So 50, 60 years before I read this book, he too had the feelings I, and many others have had, in that part of Wessex. Small fields, high views and a feeling no one lives here. I love it.
But for me this weekend the absolute treat was having an outdoor fire in the evening, from which these photos came from. I lay there letting half of my body roast slowly like a chicken, the other half bathed in luxurious coolness as the night became darker. By 10pm the stars were out and I lay back in a reclining chair in the middle of the garden, watching a satellite pass overhead. Just the one shooting star made its appearance tonight, but that's enough for me. My wish? Well to be bathed in the scent of woodsmoke, watching bats as they hunt, stars as they shine, and to witness the simple pleasure of gazing at shapes made by the dying embers of a fire on a cool Autumn night, for a very long time to come.