BY PETER PICKERSGILL
I have heard it said that the season of the year a person prefers is the one that contains his or her birthday.
In my case that is almost true, though my birthday comes just a little bit earlier than the beginning of autumn, my favourite season.
I was born in the first week of September, 16 days before the autumnal equinox, the twenty first of the month. So, strictly speaking, though autumn is my favourite season, I was born before it officially begins.
In fact, being born in the first week of September meant that my birthday falls on labour day weekend fairly often. People are usually too busy closing up their cabins or preparing to go back to school to give the celebration of me blowing out the candles the attention it deserves. Certainly I felt, 'specially as a kid, that the calendar had left me holding the short end of the stick.
Nonetheless as the season gets underway and begins to unfold, it displays all the characteristics that make me love it the best. These are not necessarily the same characteristics that appeal to others.
John Keats the Romantic poet born in 1795, on Oct. 31, my preferred part of Autumn, praised this season to the skies:
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless,
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run;
To bend with apples the moss'd cottage-trees,
And fill all fruit with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells,
With a sweet kernel, to set budding more;
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For Summer has o'er-brimm'd their clammy cells.
Not to argue with Keats, but October in his native England was probably not as near to winter as it is here. I won't dispute the mellow fruitfulness he speaks of, what with blueberries, partridge berries and bakeapples we enjoy in abundance, but the mists he speaks of are the exact opposite of what makes this season special to me.
It is the sharp clarity of the sun, rising above the near-frozen hillsides and slanting in from a deep blue sky that pierces my heart with a fever of adoration.
In this part of autumn the bees here are pretty well gone and, unlike Keats, we are certain that summer will not only cease, but soon. It will make way for our dramatic winter with its gales, blizzards and snow so deep that it is all but impossible to imagine it won't always be there, a permanent reality. That is until the end of the week when, inevitably, a carousel of low pressure winds will bring the scent of Caribbean air to our nostrils and make the snowbanks nothing more than an illusory memory.
Until the next storm.
But let's not dwell on the future for the moment, let's stay in the present and delight in the explosions of yellow and orange bursting singly and in clumps across the dark green coniferous cliffsides.
The assault is mounted by autumn's artillery. Each shell lobbed into the evergreen forest contains colours as intense as incendiaries. They flare into brilliance and expire in a matter of days.
This phase of autumn is short and, therefore, precious. That is why it is so important to seize the moment.
The bugs are gone so there is no time to lose. Walk on the forest paths with the crunch of fallen leaves beneath your feet. Remove the screens from the windows and let in all the unfiltered low-angled sunlight.
Watch it stream deep into the interior of our dwellings washing the walls, floors and ceilings with a golden glow. This is gold that can be stored away in memory and spent as needed to buy our way through the drizzle and gray leading to the shortest day of the winter solstice when the days start to get longer once again.
Summer is over. Winter is coming.
Enjoy every day of this most wonderful of seasons in a place where the sky and the sea, overflowing with life, gaze at one another in the mirror, their lungs brimming with air bursting with oxygen. A wonderful time of the year to be alive.
Peter Pickersgill is an artist and writer living in Salvage, Bonavista Bay.