Indian Summers and Autumn Sun

Autumn light did ever love me best –
A seeming sepia-tone effect
Applied to every morning mist,
Cast in shades of retrospect.

It is pride with which I call myself
November’s once-born child –
My hair the colour of fallen leaves
Or gleaming chestnuts nestled amongst them,
Cheeks flushed bright with creative destruction.

This is the colour of loss –
Loss in all its flame-hued glory;
To burn and not to fade.
Woodfire scent soothes intoxicating,
Bittersweet in every sense:
A pyre to dispose of Summer’s remains,
A homely hearth for Winter’s hands
Wearied from a hard year’s travel,
Fingers worn to the bone.

The willow sways in soft-focus slow motion
As if already a memory,
Each stroke of Nature’s pendulum
The gentlest reminder
That this too holds Majesty;
That this too
Is fleeting.

I wrote these wistful words years ago, at the other end of this sometimes-enchanted isle. Yet somehow, even here, even now, when summer’s still singing its prolonged swan song, something Autumnal awakens. I am present in a way that I haven’t been since we left the terracotta rooftops and falling graveyard leaves of Prague. My emotions have finally caught up with me, and they find me older, stronger, more resolute.

My walks home from work are a daily reminder of how the sea calls me home – and somehow, it’s not the depths alone that fill my lungs with want. It’s the heights.

The South Coast sky has a life of its own. Even strolling inland, horizon out of sight, a glimpse at the narrow band of sky between terraces speaks of a bigness beyond contemplation, and the sea that permeates.

This in-between season brings each sliver of sky to vibrant, violent life, and upon stepping out from a whitewashed avenue onto Marine Drive, the cumulative effect is almost overwhelming.

Stark scarlet splashed across ethereal, icy blue. A deep, glowering grey stretching across from the Marina, dissipating into bold mermaid scales as it meets and mingles with bolder shades. Triangular shafts of sunlight blazing like a renaissance through curious cumulonimbus, and below them an all-consuming orb of tangerine, sinking slowly to obscurity beyond the pier.

We line up along the green-painted wrought-iron rails. The joggers, the commuters, the artists and the dreamers. The penthouse-privileged and the homeless hunched in bus stops. We pause, and wait, and ponder, and capture the moment on camera phones.

Then we turn, with a hint of a smile and a gracious nod – the merest gesture of recognition that in this unlikely place, at this uncanny time, we have known the surreal comfort of being alone together.

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