The end of October is wind and half-light and a carnival of leaves. The gale roars in and fallen leaves come to life once more. They gambol over the grass, leaping and swirling like spring lambs. When the wind gusts, they are swept into a rowdy gang, sprinting across the ground. Lone leaves float against the sky, bobbing and flickering as they twirl. Those caught up in the leaf-mass try to rise too but can’t. Instead, scores of grounded leaves wave from their mulching places. Meanwhile the trees that released them creak and rustle, undulating on the side-lines of the park, as though cheering on the final jig of their offspring.
There are fewer leaves on the ground this autumn. October’s dry weather has left many crumbling to dust. There have been few of the mists and storms I would associate with the season. The colours have been muted and brittle. If anything, it has been a grey month. I have noticed the brutish beauty of sow thistle and the delicate star-burst seed-heads of groundsel. Indigo mornings studded by Orion and Pegasus. Garish orange dawns splodged with dark grey clouds. A grey squirrel tries twice to scale the surrounding wall in the park and twice falls off, before shimmying up the poplar to the tallest branches to re-assert his street cred. Starlings gather on the same TV aerial in town each morning and the wings of the seagulls are gilded by the sunrise.
This is the close down of the year. The hatches are battened down, the unfinished chores are as complete as they will ever be. The hearth is swept and a fire lit to welcome the ancestors. Halloween itself is still. The wind has vanished. There is not a breath of it, not a sway of branch or a drop of leaf. Fallen leaves are wet after a rare rainfall in the night, making them particularly vibrant. Only the birds are restless, a flock of songbirds chittering at the tips of the poplars, crows swooping and barking. I think about the ending cycle, the disrobing of the landscape, and all the industry that will carry on but won’t be seen, as leaves are broken down and nature renews herself.
Halloween night is fluid. The year is neither old nor new, but in-between. So the dead might visit and we can meet those who have not yet been born. A feast is prepared with a place set for the ancestors. The previous year is released in a flash of flame and a curl of candle smoke, the new year welcomed with the shuffle of Tarot cards. I have entered the world of the dark, that delicious time of dreaming. Easel and paints are calling me. New stories call from the darkness. My box of dreams is ready, waiting to receive the seeds of the things that are soon to be born.