This year the Autumn Equinox fell on 22nd September at around 3pm in the afternoon. This would have been my mother’s birthday, so it is a date that continues to stick in my head. The change from summer to autumn on 22nd September, also marks the astrological move from Virgo to Libra, though, in my mother’s case, her extreme tidiness and attention to detail, would have placed her firmly in the Virgo camp. There are many reminders of my mother in this house, although she died before I moved here. I have a set of chairs with embroidered seats, several table cloths that she sewed by hand and even old kitchen gadgets that I can’t bring myself to replace. Fortunately for me, my father loved this place. On his first visit, he declared that it was “an earthly paradise” and he took a great interest in all my harebrained schemes, such as planting a vineyard. It was very fitting that he moved in at the age of 91, and spent his final months here.
After more than 20 years, there are still things that surprise me about living in the country. This summer a friend and her daughter stopped in the village to ask the way. They had forgotten the name of the house and gave a description instead. “ Ah” replied the villager “that sounds like Mrs. Davies’s” and he told them where to go. Mrs. Davies lived here in the 1950s or 1960s and after her day, two other sets of people lived here, before my arrival. Real country people have long memories and just as I can never hope to be accepted as a local – this house will always be associated with Mrs. Davies!
September, as it melds into October, is a time of preparation. Is it my imagination or have the evenings felt more chill since last Thursday? Do I need to bring in logs for the wood burner and check the levels of heating oil? There are tomatoes ripening, runner beans and tiny squash to pick and enjoy, but it feels like a race against time – the need to harvest before the first frost. The swallows are gathering on the electricity power lines and the V shaped skeins of Canada geese cross the house several times a day, their harsh cries luring me outside, moments before they appear over the horizon. The calls of the geese and the urgent twittering of the swallow travellers seem to awaken an atavistic yearning for a time when humans undertook similar migrations. The sense of freedom and yen for adventure may still stir the imagination of the settled.
There is a sadness as the swallows prepare to leave for Africa. How many of this year’s youngsters will survive to return in the Spring? Things will seem very quiet when the last of the swallows has flown and I’ve scraped up the remaining piles of black and white poo from the garage floor, to enrich the soil in the greenhouse. My farmer neighbour has trimmed the hedges around the fields and along the lane – another early autumn ritual, but one which this year took with it all the ripe blackberries so much enjoyed by my 7 year old granddaughter, earlier in the month. The wild flower patch has been mowed to allow me to scatter seeds of wild orchid, yellow rattle and the contents of a packet of mixed Irish wildflowers, a present from my grandchildren after their trip to Dublin.
Preparations need to be made for the approaching Winter, but with an expectant eye ever focussed on the coming Spring.