During my undergraduate years, one of my favourite times of year was when the green-leafed creepers, which cascaded down the old JM Solomon buildings, turned to red. The campus would be adorned in a colour beyond ordinary and the logic that leaves are green no longer stood. This is the fourth Northern autumn that I am living through. It is probably because I spend so much time walking pavements and paths that this time of year is the most interesting for my (sub)urban wanderer. She has so much to take in: trails and piles of fallen orange leaves, the seeds and cones that fall from the trees and then there’s the darkening.
It’s only a quarter past four and that mysterious Northern afternoon darkness beyond dusk has descended outside, accompanied by a Mozart’s Eb horn concerto. It’s mysterious to those of us who grew up with winters that darkened only at an evening hour of say 6pm. On earlier holidays to snowy Austria, the long nights became part of the novelty of a European holiday. Now it has become part of my lived routine.
This Northern light does not filter through a gentle dusk; it seeps from the day’s overcast sky to reveal grey that grows ever darker. Then I, like many others, will have to go out into this darkness and continue as if it is not so. In late autumn, the early part of the Northern winter, I pep talk myself into believing living two thirds of your day in darkness is not so bad. It is only November. I have to sit out another three months until the end of February. Then new green will point its shoots from the branches.