As with the spring and the mountain greening
, the fall of autumn begins in patches. It is first noticed one morning, with two or three trees shunning their former verdancy, in exchange for a cloak of gold. Then another tree, and another. Before a week has passed a north-facing slope is no longer green but vibrant with oranges, reds, and yellows, a nearby deep gully bronzed and auburn, leaves leaching, dancing their final show before the curtain fall of winter.
This is a time of harvest, vines heavy with grape, figs ripening to the joy of the blackbirds, stray pumpkins appearing near the former compost heap. Fresh produce is not hard to find for much of the year, here in this corner of France, and I do not take it for granted. Perhaps there is not quite as much choice or freshness as there was in Portugal — the growing season there is longer — but it is certainly a far cry from the latest news coming out of the UK, where grapes, for example, will apparently increasingly be sourced in Australia (with attendant 5+ week journey from harvest to shop), rather than from the south of Europe (with attendant 15 hour journey from harvest to shop).
I still derive great pleasure from learning new things about food. For example, although I have drunk my fair share of the sweet Muscat wine, I had never eaten the actual grape until this week. It is revelatory, utterly different to the other options. The figs here, straight from the tree, are likewise different from those I sampled (copiously) in Portugal. And there is a reason the walnut in the Francophone world is known as noix de Grenoble. Soon, it shall be chataigne season, something I did not appreciate until visiting France — the wild sweet chestnuts in the UK were often devoured by the non-native grey squirrel, long before they were ripe enough for our palate (likewise with hazelnuts, often long gone before they have a chance to ripen on the tree).
This is a season of restlessness, of change and the lure of wilder places, crisper mornings, fewer mosquitoes and brilliant night skies. It is when the birds and Snufkin head south, when Orion is bright in the north, and when the stags begin to roar. It always makes me want to head to the woods, swing in my hammock, and inhale, deeply.