It has been my choice to sit by the weir, on the inside of my outstretched rain mac, each evening for a week now. No-one coerces me. And no-one calls me back in out of the rain. At first, I was captivated by the silky wave over a shallow slope of concrete. Then it was the shifting semblance of froth, striving and never achieving to journey back up the silk.
Autumn equinox has just passed, and if you’ve noticed, the air has cooled with expectation of changes to come. Rain drops are heavier, steelier, and the’ve been falling squarely in my face as I look up to admire bats hunting above the river.
So now I go out for the bats ~ pipistrelles I think, but I’ll need to monitor. There’s an elusive species here called Nathusius’, and their roosts are more difficult to find.
My daily bat-spotting probably hasn’t gifted me any favours; I’m suffering from a stiff bout of bronchitis. My raw lungs struggle to draw any kind of breath, slow or quick, without the hacking one might expect from a veteran tobacconeer (with pleurisy, for effect).
My state seems to have worsened through the night, and I can’t sleep at all. I’m feeling under pressure. Temperate Autumn is a time when life prepares for decay, trees simultaneously pushing out the small leaf buds as a gift of renewal* or a bat catching that last vital Summer moth before hibernation. It is a clever time. A canny time.
Imagine ~ someone takes the warmth and light away, what can we do but use our wherewithal to react and prepare for what’s next. We are like Autumn when placed slightly under pressure.
Beneath a good crowd of trees, here by the weir, the air becomes tangible with tiny chemicals released from leaves and stems which are being broken down by life’s heterotrophic decomposers. The fungi. There are complex mycelial languages we’re slowly beginning to understand but we humans, the youngest children in the family of nature, have much to learn. We know they send out signals to other creatures, detritivores. Come feast! The mix is both metabolic and earthy, as compounds are broken down to build anew.
As I gaze in awe among the higher vegetation, various gastropods, fabulous climbers, graze on the dead and dying, more visible to us than underground mycelial succession. I love slugs and snails. Their very being is like water crystallised to jelly. They glisten, most of all on dewy mornings, as they inch their way around a three dimensional world of wet, tall stems, soaked leaves and heavily-laden seed heads. And they gift us an important job each year, of clearing up the detritus (if we bother to understand them well enough, of course, we’d act more to protect them in return).
It can be tough for wildlife in the Autumn, finding enough food in a human-shaped landscape to fatten up through Winter. Thankfully, the blow for us humans has been softened by central heating, shopping malls and Autumnal colours! What’s more, we have the rich and peppered scent of fresh, fallen leaves to gently kick through. How much fun is that? Perhaps our mammal cousins appreciate this too, just for the hell of it.
So, this is my Autumn 2015. It is my own experience, in a new locale, with a new river (The Ely, which flows to man-made Cardiff Bay), and with a new non-human family, which I hope will adopt me. Sitting here in the soaking wet, I also hope to catch a falling leaf and make a wish. Last year I caught an ash leaf in Castle Wood. The year before, it was a beech leaf near Bredwardine Bridge. What will it be this year? I wonder.
*Look for them, you’ll find them – leaf buds don’t generally appear in Spring, you know! Although they do remain dormant for a time before Spring warms them up, like cockles.
Fascinating and beautiful report about mycelium, do click here