A small comfort

Thursday November 4, 2004

A perfect, clean and bright autumn day, misty at the start until the sun burned through, and then quiet, sunny, and calm apart from the customary flurry of light wind around noon. Except for ornamental, foreign trees and shrubs there is no gaudy show of autumn colour. Our native British trees are changing leaf colour in a modest, unhurried fashion, achieving no more than soft, undramatic russets, yellows and ochres before the leaves fall away to leave bare branches stroking the sky.

On gateposts here and there are pumpkin jack o’lanterns, softly mouldering away, some with smoky eyes from exhausted candles. As alien as the imported trees, they make the only spark of brave colour in the landscape, diverting the eye from the soft ruin of mulched leaves along the kerbs.

Along the lane, where building work is in progress, heavy vehicles have created a stone-pocked sea of mud over which I drive the little blue Ford with more care even than is usual. Once a day the builder’s labourer comes out with a pressure hose to wash the road clean, sweeping the stubborn remainder to the side of the road. There are no open drains, fortunately, or they’d be silted by now.

And, throughout the day, men and women walk past leading or led by dogs of all kinds and sizes. They exchange scarf-muffled greetings in passing. The dogs, as they meet, show at most a minor, ritual recognition one of the other. Like me, I suspect they walk out of duty more than delight, with their thoughts directed to the fireside. Some smaller animals have little coats against the chill. I’m glad they have that comfort.


Overnight the small garden tree
has shed its leaves. Without fuss,
quietly, it has formed a thick circle
on the lawn, beneath naked branches.
In the early dew-misted light
it seems druidic, somehow, a perfect
leaf-henge laying there, waiting for
noon, when the wind will rise
and, randomly, disperse it.
John Bailey, Lincolnshire, 2004



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