I’ve always loved the smell of fresh parchment, unfolded and extant. As a child, I was obsessed with books, particularly Enid Blyton for the promise of children being whisked off to a magic faraway tree, but it was solely to inhale the pages. I breathed in books while slurping pumpkin soup and pushing my cotton covered toes against our stove’s glass. Fire erupted inside, its flames demonstrating the tango, and I would occasionally flinch at the heat, but it was comfortable. And the glass was mostly thick enough to prevent burning. I would sprawl myself across the floor, dropping marshmallows into warm chocolate, sitting like a happy seal on my literary beach. Road Dahl, Enid Blyton, JK Rowling, Jacqueline Wilson; all my first-hand trusty storytellers swimming around me. Reading these books made me believe in the magic of woodlands. That if I stepped just a little further backwards into the field, I’d see a whole other world of possibilities. That if I just pressed the right bit of bracken, on a suspicious looking oak tree, I’d reveal a concealed realm. I became a little obsessed with discovering magical places, as I’m sure lots of children did. On every dog walk, I’d be delicately tapping bricks, trying to remain unseen by my mum, hoping it would unveil the entrance to Diagon alley.
Secret spots in the forest to hide in with friends became a necessity. In my imagination, they were the portals to a vast cluster of mythical creatures and untold fables, but we referred to them as ‘dens’. When I was six, I lived on a cul-de-sac council estate with a hairy man named Reg living next door. He had a thick grey beard, unravelling to his knees like an unwinding scroll. Reg wore a leather jacket covered in pins and bottle tops, and grunted as a means of communication. I thought he was probably a wizard, though looking back, he was probably just a Metallica fan. All the kids on the estate played together in groups of twenty, sometimes even fourth, and Reg eventually said (after much pestering) that we could use his garden as yet another ‘den’. This was one of the most exciting things to happen for months. A den, in Reg’s garden. The was amazing, purely because Reg clearly didn’t know how to keep a garden. The shrubberies and branches towered above most of the homes, intertwining and tangling, making for a fantastical forest to slice our spurious swords through. We rode our dragons through the jungle, fighting foes and rescuing damsels.
These were the innocent memories of Autumn. Of Childhood, and secret entrances to enchanted worlds.
As months faded into years and adulthood swept over me, Autumn differentiated. Still magical, Autumn visited and sprinkled her orange dust over the town, but I’d changed and I wasn’t sure she’d recognise me. In last year’s Autumn, I’d temporarily forgotten to endure her. I’d fell into a pit, and depersonalisation sealed a dome over the top of me. I could breathe, but it didn’t feel right to. And I could talk, but I didn’t really want to. And there came one of my fondest memories of Autumn. I’d travelled home, not to the magical cul-de-sac, but a fresh house in the same town. The shrubberies were gone, dragons buried and secret entrances overgrown. Instead, I’d made a habitat with my love in a new home, but my connection was hindered. My recognition became blurred and I began to feel drained, exhausted of all my emotions. My love bunched me up in a cardigan, filled the room with syrup-scented candles, and excessive amounts of blankets (the heating was broken, another Autumn tradition) and we played trivial pursuit over coffee, until I learned how to smile again. Eventually dimples cracked into my cheeks and I felt alive again.
I know now that we are never too old to experience Autumn’s magic. Whether that be through the secret realms hidden beneath the conkers, the lighting of sprinklers, or the watching of fireworks. You can even find her magic in powdered cinnamon pastry, or in the arms of another. And it’s okay if she doesn’t feel the same each year. Autumn will change with you.
Yesterday I revisited Autumn. I’m never sure when to greet her, but this time she found me. Barbed wire twisted into barricading knots, obstructing my view of the rust-coated field, but she was pretty anyway. Autumn’s beaming auburn light tainted my skin to reach a light glow, more life in my flesh than I can usually achieve, and I felt at comfort. I’d been alone for several hours, but something about being consumed in silence brings an ability to perceive environment through means you wouldn’t have otherwise. I breathed in petrichor and the burning of distant bonfires, inhaling smoke and expelling everything else. Nothing else mattered, only Autumn.
Now, I know the rest of the year will be content. Beginnings are always a struggle for me, hence why I don’t go out for New Year’s Eve or even really enjoy Spring. But Autumn brings a sense of closure for me, like all the strands of narrative are being threaded together, and I know I’ll be okay now.
This is my entry for challenge #2 of #TheBlogRace. All of the contestants can be viewed in one blog post here. Please check out the other entries too – everyone’s working so hard! Voting for this challenge starts on saturday over on Twitter, if you’d like to give me some support! It will be on the hashtag ‘#theblograce’ in the form of a poll. I’d like to throw a big thank you towards Layla, Vix, and Helen for getting me out of my comfort zone and encouraging new blog ideas!
Photography by Lydon Colston