Glowing

We crunch and rustle along pavements of copper leaves. The sky is filled with diluted denim clouds, the sun a foggy disk slightly brighter than the sky. A strong breeze agitates the leaves. We walk past the war memorial, scattered with curled leaves, the shapes of old wreaths ingrained into the stone by dirt and lichen. Past the stone mason’s studio, where brand new tombstones await epitaphs. Through the iron gates and stone frontage of the cemetery.

Bindweed trumpets wind and bloom along the clipped privet. A few hogweed flowers have not yet withered. Clumps of grass finger out of the dead leaves. The base of a shattered tree hosts a massive crop of fungi. A squirrel, who may have been feeding on it, streaks past and up a neighbouring tree. But there is another squirrel in the grass who hasn’t yet spotted us. Her companion chitters a warning and soon both are beyond reach.

There is still a lot of green in the cemetery, but those trees that have turned are showpieces. Horse chestnuts and maples and lindens and beeches. Yellows and bronzes and coppers and reds. They are beacons of light nearby and in the distance as we walk.

A mischief of magpies crowds on top of one of the graves. There are at least ten of them and I wonder why. When we get closer I see it is planted with a fiery-leaved rowan, still laden with berries. The magpies are feasting on those that have fallen. They aren’t alone. A couple of jackdaws hop nearby and a mob of crows, one of whom nonchalantly grooms himself on top of a gravestone. There are gulls too. One of them eyes us from the top of a tall tombstone. Others squabble and squawk in a rowdy flock. Some of them have the traces of juvenile plumage and I wonder if these are teenagers looking for trouble.

There are points of communion in every special space. Here in the cemetery, there is the fallen tree where fungi grow. The graves that bloom with snakeshead fritillaries. The place behind the chapel where bluebells and cow parsley froth and hoverflies shimmer. In autumn, it is the place of the three maples. They stand in a row, in a slight clearing. Leaves like butterscotch and lemon and honey glow on their branches and form golden pools on the ground. Cow parsley leaves and tiny saplings poke through the leaves. There is a small, dead tree beneath the canopy, gnarled and bent, wrapped in a tendril of ivy. A broken tombstone, its stone cross laid gently against its base. Standing beneath the three maples, the sun gilds the leaves and takes you to another place.

We leave the gilded shelter of the three maples and walk up a narrow path. The sound of a bird singing makes me pause, because until now I have heard only the rough sounds of corvids and gulls. Listening carefully, I realise it is the full song of the blackbird, but sung so quietly that you would not hear it if you weren’t stood next to it. I look up, into a holly tree and immediately see a male blackbird perched there. For a few moments we look at each other and I hear the song again. It isn’t the bird I’m looking at that is singing, but another higher up in the tree. I wonder why it is so quiet. Perhaps I have stumbled on some secret thing. I listen for a few moments then leave them in peace.

There is a funeral about to begin at the crematorium. Two female vicars in billowing vestments stand at the door. A handful of masked guests wait outside. We pass quickly, to the shelter of a towering beech, its trunk like elephant skin, its boughs trailing petticoats of autumn hues. I think of our early morning dog walks, when the sun is just peeping above the houses, bathing the park in golden stripes of light. We wander out of the cemetery on a path of shining beech leaves. The sky is still grey. We are expecting storms this week. But the fire of autumn is glowing within me.

116 thoughts on “Glowing

  1. A “mischief of magpies”: I like that, very apposite. A singing blackbird in October: maybe doing some choir practice in preparation for the spring dawn chorus? Delightful prose as always Andrea! Best wishes to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “There are points of communion in every special space.” That is such a beautiful line, my friend. That is the kind of line only a quality writer could imagine. Only nine words long, made up of rather ordinary words, and yet combined it delivers artistry in words.

    Blessings to you always!

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  3. Blessings for that fire of autumn burning in you, Andrea, and for your beautiful descriptions of your walk. The phrase that excited me was “mischief of magpies”. Have not heard that term! Of course it may be because we don’t have magpies around here, but it’s a fun description of a flock of feathered friends.

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  4. Andrea, your flowing descriptions carry me along with you – your photographs highlighting your delightful prose. You make this autumn season a joy to experience. In the southern hemisphere we are beginning to enjoy longer, warmer days and – even in the drought – greener vegetation and the renewal of spirit that summer brings. Each season to its own.

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  5. I love this write. I love what the scenery in a cemetery can cause the muse in us to be inspired. When I was a girl my cousin and I walked through a cemetery in the evening fog by the ocean and I was taken in. A mystery about a life beneath every tombstone. Your write tells not only the reality of the cemetery but the mystery and the beauty and the fact that life goes on. You have seen it in all that is nature, both plants and birds and brought it all to life. Thank You!

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  6. There is something about autumn that is spiritual. I can’t put my finger on it, but I’m experiencing that fire within me this season as well. Thank you for sharing the lovely photos and poetic words.

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  7. The intense, descriptive prose overtakes me the instant I begin reading and I can see and hear the location in vivid, intricate detail. I am surprised when offered occasional pictorial inputs which are beautiful exposures in their own right, for I have seen it all in my mind’s eye already. I am particularly enamoured by the image where the burst of mint green canopy presents a contrast to the grey-black headstones mirroring life and death. There is a theme of rebirth, regrowth and evanescence about this piece, crystallised by the appearance of female vicars in billowing vestments towards the end.

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  8. I have sometimes heard a blackbird in late winter quietly singing its ‘sub-song’ and assumed it was either a mature bird practising its full repertoire before the coming nesting season. or a juvenile learning to sing. How delightful to have one singing now to add to all those autumn wildlife details in your local cemetery.

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  9. Beautiful piece, Andrea. The trees are beautiful. We are still having high temperatures here, but a few foggy mornings offered the first signs of autumn. Looking forward to making soup, getting out my sweaters, and going from iced tea to hot tea. Here’s to a great fall season!

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  10. Hello, Andrea. Autumn is shorter than a snake’s legs. Mother Nature throws open the pantry door and invites everything in for one last binge. No one turns down the offer, it’s a free for all. As I write, hundreds of Winter Thrushes: Redwing, Fieldfare, Blackbirds, and Song thrushes descend upon the haw laden hedgerows. They leave the freezing Scandinavian Winter behind to join us here for what they consider being a much easier time. (Much to the annoyance of the resident population who try to defend their meager supply from the rampaging hoards.)
    It’s nice to see Winston snuffling around amongst the leaves; it’s a dog’s life:)
    A wonderful post, Andrea, I thoroughly enjoyed reading it. Take care; Speak soon.

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      • Hello, Andrea. I estimate c500 Birds. The noise they generate is enough to stop me in my tracks. When the food’s gone they’ll move on, and that’s how they’ll spend the Winter, plundering the countryside of every morsel they can find.
        Have a pleasant weekend, Andrea. Speak soon.

        Liked by 1 person

  11. A beautiful picture painted, it’s a wonderful time, the closing of the year, where the colours stand out even more. It would be nice to hibernate for a while in the coming months.

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  12. You are definitely in your “golden season,” and I can tell how you have released your breath now that summer is over, and the crispness of Fall has begun. What a lovely post – a poem really to the quiet (yet bird-noisy) walk you share with beings seen and unseen. I love your phrase “There are points of communion in every special space.” I love how you see/hear/note all of those points of communion. My guy and I walk a cemetery called Sleepy Hollow outside of Boston at least once a month. No one is there – and it’s such a beautiful glorious hilly place full of trees and quiet old stones dating from the early 1800s on (yes, I know, old in America, not anywhere else in the world). We guess people are wary of walking in a cemetery, but instead, the beauty, the solitude, is astounding. We touch the graves of Henry David Thoreau, Emerson, Hawthorne and more, austere stones that speak to the simple eloquence of these thinkers and writers.

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  13. Don’t you love the light of a golden-hued tree on a cloudy day in autumn? Your beautiful prose drew me in and left me longing for another autumn walk in my neighbourhood…there is something sacred about an autumn walk through trees young and old as they shelter stone and birdlife.

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  14. I never want summer to end until autumn arrives, and I remember it is the finest season. Your wonderful immersive writing evokes it perfectly.

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  15. Cemeteries are special places, and whenever I travelled to a new country, I always sought out a cemetery. They are full of stories, short messages of love and longing, and mysteries about what happened between those dates of birth and dates of death. But I also am drawn to cemeteries because of the trees, and the small animals that live there. Thanks for this beautifully drawn portrait, that brings a cemetery to life, Andrea. As always, rendered in your inimitable style.

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  16. Such delicious descriptions Andrea. Was a treat to read every word of it. Couldnt leave without taking a second helping. The cemetery sounds so peaceful and beautiful. Thank you for all taking us on that walk. Woke up and read this and found it thoroughly satisfying.

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  17. Indeed, the cemetery is glowing! And such a variety of birdsong – sometimes you really have to wonder what they might know, maybe who is there for them to see and commune with. Such a lovely visit to this quiet space. I can see why you were glowing, too.

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  18. I love maples, especially in autumn. I love old cemeteries, their markers hinting at lives long past but never forgotten. You’ve described a place I’d love to see and feel, absorbing its energy. Thank you, for the gorgeous words and photos.

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  19. Captivating writing as always Andrea – words aglow with the alchemy of Autumn. You were lucky to hear the Blackbirds sub-song – sung quietly without drama – beautiful!

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  20. Thank you for taking me on your walk. This is a beautiful time of year and as I look out my window I see the varying hues of Autumn telling me that Winter is on the horizon. The trees give me a warm blast which will remain until I welcome the resurrection of Spring.

    Walking with you through your descriptive writing makes me see even more from my window. I am always happy to walk with you.

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  21. Absolutely beautiful, Andrea! So poetic and full of the love of all you saw on your walk with Winston. I have also heard a sotto voce blackbird. Not recently, but years ago I heard a faint singing and couldn’t work out where the sound came from. Eventually I located a *female* blackbird under a shrub in my garden seemingly humming to herself! I was so surprised as I had thought that the females couldn’t/didn’t sing.

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  22. Your words and photos come together as one with this post, Andrea. Beautiful and it gives me an escape today, perhaps feeling a bit nostalgic when I read this for some reason. I did have to smile reading “Some of them have the traces of juvenile plumage and I wonder if these are teenagers looking for trouble…” it brought nature to life with this walk ~ great post. Wish you well.

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  23. I love all these little details, Andrea, the names of the plants, descriptions of the birds. This makes the walks so real. We are in a 5 km lockdown which puts me right in the crowd of the city. Of course I stay home, or walk in the most ungodly weather and hours. Glad you have this freedom, and share it with all of us. Stay safe!

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  24. Its nice to go on a walk with you, Andrea, hearing what you hear and seeing what you see. These days I’m mostly walking the same route close to home due to Covid restrictions and while I enjoy the close observation of the changes in this same path, visiting the graveyard with you was a welcome change of scenery!

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