Wednesday, 1 September 2010


One step outside the garden door, and autumn is there.
It is there in the goose-pimpling air, the heavy cold dew on the lawn. the filaments of cobwebs highlighted by the low level sun.
As the day warms it is there in the blushing tomatoes. the fattening grapes and the competitive scrambling of birds in the thickness of the vine.

The grapes are not good for people.
An enthusiastic friend made wine some years ago. It was awful; bitter, harsh.
I tipped the remainer of the bottle down the sink, where it fizzed and foamed and left the sink sparkling.
Good for stainless steel.
An American friend made grape jelly, but it was so sweet that we might as well have eaten a bag of sugar.

So now the grapes are there only for the birds, and I wait for the Fieldfares to come for their share.
In the meantime starlings, blackbirds and sparrows argue and scamble for fruit, nipping off ripe and unripe indiscriminately.
An athletic-looking cat, new to the neighbourhood, watches from a fence-top.

The blackbirds have spent the summer colonising the garden. They are proprietorial about its contents, spending so much time trying to prevent others from eating that they can hardly feed themselves. They posture and fight - male to male, female to male, father to daughter.
The other birds eat on, noisily, fussily.

Bounty for the sparrow-hawk, too, plummeting into the vine, pinioning a shrieking victim.
The other birds rush panic-striken away and the sparrow-hawk plucks and rips in silence.
Such passion and brutality in a small town garden.

Overhead, on the edge of the hills, a family of buzzards spiral and mew. Two adults with three offspring this year.
Just watching.
Their chance will come.

The sky is empty and silent of the scimitars of martins, swifts and swallows, screaming high in the summer evenings. I try to note the day they vanish, to wish them safety on their perilous, incredible journey back to warmth.

One night soon, if I am very lucky, in the still and chilly dark I will hear autumn in the rush of migrating birds, high, high in the cold starry sky, following flight paths older than Man.
The birds are always ahead of us in their knowledge of winds and weather for their unimaginably vast migrations.

Earth is making its slow tilt again; here towards darkness while the other side receives its share of warmth and light.


marigold jam said...

What a lovely lovely piece of prose - I could almost feel the slight chill in the air as I read it. Thank you.


Anonymous said...

Wonderful writing!

Zhoen said...

Growing analogy in your garden.

US jam is usually ridiculously sweet.

Jane said...

I love September and today is just wonderful - full of autumn feel.

Relatively Retiring said...

Jane and Anon: thank you for your kind comments.

Zhoen: oh, maybe the grapes were ok then? We could only taste the sugar.

Jane: isn't it wonderful? It always works this way when the schools go back.

pohanginapete said...

Beautiful, evocative writing.

Most of our supermarket grapes are over-large, tasteless and imported. Madness, especially when NZ grows magnificent grapes. Bought direct from the vineyard (I'm thinking of wine grapes), they're full of delicious flavour. But I suppose they're not large enough, size being everything, apparently, or at least in the tiny minds of the supermarket buyers, who seem never to have considered consumers might value quality over excess.
**end of rant**

Relatively Retiring said...

PPete: Oh, c'mon! You just need to eat less grapes and drink more of that wonderful New Zealand wine.

20th Century Woman said...

We watched the moon rise over the mountains the other day and realized how fast the Earth turns. Season change seems long and slow here in the Pacific Northwest. Leaves drift down and fall blends with summer. The birds at the feeder are little brown things rather without the bright courtship colors of spring.

You are right about Americans having too-sweet jam. And other sweets are too sweet as well. I like to eat sweets in England where the sweetness is subdued.

The Crap Blog Detective said...

Your blog sucks.

Isabelle said...

Your blog is lovely and you write beautifully.

leslee said...

Lovely writing, and isn't nature harsh! I'm afraid I always resist the tilt, the lessening of light. Maybe it's partly because I'm invariably ill from ragweed pollens from late August until whenever the first frost comes - about 2 months later.

Relatively Retiring said...

20th Century Woman: thank you for taking the time to comment. I'd love to see the moon rise over the mountains.
Many things in England are subdued, not just the sweets!

Crap Blog Detective: thank you, too, for your comment. Am I meant to be upset by it?

Isabelle: I hope September is as lovely for you up there as it is down here - also that the new term provides much blog-fuel.

Leslee: Yes, nature is indeed harsh, and in a wild-life garden you can't interfere - everyone needs to eat!
I hope the allergies are not too severe this year.

den said...

You have created wonderful picture in my head.
A film maker could set them to music.
Could it be a mother and son combo?

herhimnbryn said...

Thankyou for taking me with you into your garden. I could feel the air and see the birds.

From the other side of the world I send you, red and green parrots who feast on the mandarin oranges from my tree. Chilly mornings and days that are beginning to warm up.

Relatively Retiring said...

Den: that's a lovely thought, but my younger son and his girlfriend have 'eloped' and are getting married on the Isle of Skye this morning, so he's a bit busy!

HHnB: Oh, photographs please, although I can see it it my mind's eye!

den said...

How romantic. I wish them everything that they would wish for themselves, and a bit more for luck.

Relatively Retiring said...

Den: thank you. I am so delighted that they had the courage to do exactly what was right for them, and to have the big celebration as a separate event. And the sun shone on Skye!

herhimnbryn said...

Yes, freesias from the garden! I continue to be amazed by this. More info over at my place.

Molly said...

Don't know how I missed this gem of yours! I too love to watch the birds squabbling and keeping everyone in their place! We are hard pressed to get some figs from our tree before they swoop in and feast. You were so gracious with that churlish commenter, motivated by what? One can hardly imagine! Florida's is lovely for the climate, but posts like this make me ache for Autumn at home....

winnibriggs said...

Wow! I am in awe. Found you through Jeeandme and can't stop reading. You have such a way with words, they really do come alive. Who needs photos when you can tell it as well as you do?
Jenny (retiring disgracefully)

Relatively Retiring said...

Molly: thank you for the kind comments. The Great Blog Whatsit seems to be busy elsewhere. Hope I didn't offend him/her!

Jenny: hello and thank you for your comments. I find it fascinating to see how the network of contacts developes.