In the 1970s Jackson Browne wrote a fairly beautiful song called ‘The Load Out’. Totally unrelated to the weather, outdoors and any of the seasons, but stay with me and I’ll come back to that. Maybe give it a listen while you read this though.
Autumn and Winter. The time of year that everybody turns the central heating on, stocks up logs for the fire and makes a ludicrous amount of soup. We all do it. So it’s time when people go into hibernation and spends less time out in the wild, but why? It’s cold, wet and muddy. So what?
I am a firm believer that there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothing and preparation. Without boring you too much about a layering system, with a simple adjustment to your clothes, base layers to outer layers, you can enjoy the weather all year round. So what are you missing when you only go outside for those couple of weeks of sun in the great British summer? So much. Allow me to tell you why, personally, I think that this time of year from Autumn through Winter to Spring is the most beautiful, exciting and intriguing.
When you think of Autumn, the first thing that usually comes to mind is a natural carpet of orange, red and brown leaves, conkers dropping from the Chestnut Trees, pumpkins and maybe pies. I think of pies most of the year, but I feel like you can’t beat a really good pie when the cold weather comes in.
So Summer is over, the leaves are turning a spectacular array of colours like natures very own fireworks and the cold, dark and misty mornings have begun. I consider myself lucky with the drive I have to work every morning, other than the awful traffic. The road I take is almost entirely lined on both sides with trees. Oaks, Chestnuts, Birch and Elms, all exploding with colour and dropping their leaves, allowing the sun to burst through, casting it’s rays through the mist. Actually makes the traffic worth getting caught in.
If you’re anything like me, then you’ll know what I mean when I say I’m one of those people who really prefers the cold weather. There is nothing better than putting your boots on, a nice warm coat, scarf, hat and gloves and walking out into the forests when that year’s leaves are piled around your feet. The incredible silence being broken by the crunching of frosted foliage and the scurrying of squirrels making their last minute harvest for the Winter. All over the country animals are making their own preparations for the coming season, and being able to witness this is something very special. Whether it is that squirrel getting ready to spend his winter season in his den, or that year’s fox cubs leaving their family, preparing for adult life and searching for their mates to start a family of their own. However, everything is over shadowed by the majesty that is the Red Deer stag. A real stand out icon of the great British Autumn, their rutting season. All over the country these creatures great and small can be found if you take the time to sit quietly, still and observe.
As I have mentioned in some of my previous articles, to me the forest is a hive of life, activity and emotions. All over the internet there are videos of time-lapses in the forest covering the whole year. What you’ll see if you watch it, and even witness it by getting out there in every moment you have through the year, is one of the most spectacular stories. And it’s all for free. Spring is the magical introduction to the year, the buds begin to burst through on the trees, the green of the forest floor begins peeking out of the foliage from the previous year and those fox cubs take their first steps out of their den, preparing you for what to expect in the next chapter – Summer. The main event, life is at it’s fullest, the leaves spread out into an enormous canopy, the days are bright and warm. Barbeques, warm evenings and long walks for days that feel like months, only to slow and dim when the story comes to an end. Autumn. The leaves begin to change, life comes to an end, the animals return to their hides and homes and the days get shorter. Winter. The last leaves fall to the ground to be covered with frost and snow. The busy, loud bustling of Summer has suddenly fallen to a deathly silence as life appears to be at a stand still until the sun comes back and warms the ground, nurturing the forest back to life for Spring. Infancy, adolescence, adulthood, followed by the inevitable. Only to start again.
To be part of this story is a wonder in itself, to witness it every single year is something that should be cherished. Why would anybody want to miss that? Why would anybody consider hiding indoors at the most beautiful time of this life cycle? Put some extra layers and wellies on and get outside.
Everything has a beginning, middle and end. It varies in length, but everything does. A book, a movie, a three course dinner and a song. It builds from scratch, almost nothing, just an idea. This very article that you are reading started from just that, an idea, and don’t worry this article does have an ending too. Life is a wonderful thing to behold, and without getting too ‘preachy’ I believe that if you have that chance to watch something from the beginning of it’s life to the end, over and over, why wouldn’t you? Why would you only cherish those moments that feel nice and warm and decide to ignore the rest? The most beautiful things are just on the other side of your doors, windows and walls. Go and see it, study and love it.
Jackson Browne’s ‘The Load Out’ is dedicated to the road crew that follow the band around on tour, building the stage at the beginning of every show and always being the last to leave the theatre at the end, carrying out their jobs almost in auto pilot. Jackson mentions the noises he hears as the crew dismantle the stage and slams doors, but they are noises that only on lookers would notice. To the crew it’s just everyday labour and something they will never be disconnected from. In the show of forest that you can see every year, the leaves are the road crew, the first to arrive and bring life to the show and always the last to leave once the deafening crowd has vanished, the band, the main part of the show, have gone and the theatre is filled with an eerie silence, until that last leaf falls and the house lights go out, until the next show.