There is something quite poignant, almost melancholy about a field of wilting sunflowers on an early autumnal day. They appear like ranks of retreating soldiers after a long hard fought campaign, they’re heads bowed in defeat.
They are the sentinals or summer, having stood tall throughout the heat of battle, toiling with through the long, hot days, reaching ever upward, battling the elements to rise above the rest. Standing proudly whilst waiting for pollinators to help spread their seeds. Their task complete they can now afford to let their guard down. Fields of sunflowers are a symbol of summer to many of us.
Now however this field of wilting warriors near Cognac in Poitou-Charentes, France signifies the end of summer and probably causes sadness in many. Lamenting the lost days of most peoples favourite season, long days and clear, cool nights, drinking Pimms, enjoying barbecues and stunning sunsets in the company of friends or family. Like the sunflowers we may understandably feel like mourning.
This is the ‘glass half empty’ approach however and soon all over the Northern Hemisphere we will be marvelling at the hues of autumn. Trees will lose their uniform green of spring and summer and dazzle with vibrant reds, rich ochres and glorious golds. The ground beneath our feet will crackle and crunch whenever we venture into the woods, treading upon a thick carpet of papyrus like dried leaves.
Those fortunate enough to reside in or visit destinations like New England and surrounding areas will possibly witness the most spectacular transformation but there are plenty of other locations where the beauty of autumn can be experienced.
Even in a largely residential and industrial area such as my own backyard of Manchester and Salford there are pockets of unexpected colour. Parks and greenbelt areas whilst not as impressive as the mass transformations of the huge forests of North America can still demostrate the splendour of nature.
Autumn often brings clear days and cool, star filled nights. An early start the following day can be rewarded with a crisp ground frost and mist clinging to every hollow or patch of water. This gives everything a mystical appearance and can stir the imagination of those still willing to allow their inner child free rein. I’ll keep my imaginings to myself however for fear of writing my next piece in a padded cell.
I have yet to experience a North American autumn, witnessing the majestic splendour of Fall spread almost imperceptibly but irresistably across the landscape like a slow moving tide. It is one of nature’s wonders I relish seeing one day, but until then the slightly less spectacular transformations closer to home will suffice.
As for the sunflowers they maybe nearing the end but they are still standing; remaining defiant till the last!