We woke up this morning to look out onto a dew-covered landscape this morning. Or, to be more accurate, we woke up in pitch darkness and about an hour later (we rise at 6.30am and the sun doesn’t join us until 7.27am), we could see the dew-covered landscape, which was barely visible through the condensation-laden windows.
Autumn is a time for a newly-discovered love of the central heating system, for dampness to pervade everything, for the anticipation of frost and for the sunrise and sunset times to make their yearly pilgrimage south. Although I love the season, it is easy to see why Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD) is such a problem, especially in more northern areas of the UK, as the light disappears and the heat with it.
I have family who live in southern England, and there is a marked difference at this time of year between sunrise times. We have to wait until 7.27am, but they see the sun at 7.16am. But, here’s the weird thing – their sunset is apparently around 6.32pm. Ours, further north, is 6.36pm. We have less daytime overall (we’re short about 7 minutes on them), but slightly later evenings than our southern relatives.
Such astronomical phenomena, such as variations in sunrise and sunset times, fascinate me. Likewise, the process by which the northern hemisphere cools down in the autumn, dictated not only by the amount of daylight we get but also by the angle at which it strikes us, is, I think, one of the wonders of the natural world. I don’t think many people realise that in the UK, a group of islands which takes up only a tiny portion of the globe’s surface, sunset and sunrise times and the impact of the seasons can be so very different in the north of the country as compared to the south. This extends to the garden – we have a shorter growing season than our southern neighbours and what can be grown successfully in Wiltshire, Kent, Essex, Devon and the like could be completely impossible and not even worth greenhouse space in Dumfries & Galloway or Argyll & Bute.
It is autumn, and my garden is covered in dew. There is standing water on roads and in low lying areas and the yearly flood warnings from SEPA have started already. I’m currently trying to figure out exactly how to make my greenhouse properly wind and watertight. Children are bundled up in layers of warm clothing for their trip to school each morning. The wind is blowing just a little stronger, the rain falling just a little heavier, the leaves on the trees are making a rapid trip through most of the colours of the rainbow before falling and littering the ground. There is a sense of anticipation of the forthcoming cold, almost as if the countryside and everything in it is stocking up and packing up before the frosts arrive.
I do love the colours and the anticipatory pleasures of autumn. There is nothing better than a warm, cosy home, full of nice foody smells, if you’ve been outside for a while and gotten cold and damp. There is nothing quite like being the first person to trample across a crispy, frost laden lawn. There is nothing so much fun as finding and gathering food from the garden and hedgerow and preparing it for storage in whatever way you feel suits it best. But, as much as I find the season beautiful, and the astronomical clock of sunrise and sunset times fascinating, I do sometimes wish that it didn’t march quite so inexorably towards midwinter and the shortest day.