A dream of glory is captured in this photographer’s ‘golden hour’ moment early on a November day. But it won’t last. Or will it?
The exquisite autumnal light indicates a new day full of promise in the Forest of Dean. Dry crunchy leaves provide a rich brown autumnal carpet sparkling in the sunlight – a memory of summer’s sun carried in each leaf. This is a great moment to choose for an early morning walk with the dogs.
We watch the leaves in the garden and nearby trees, their moment of colour in the spotlight over, quietly settling in richly coloured carpets on the ground. Acers, cherries, rowans, hazels, hawthorn, ending with the silver birches, always one of the last to join the party. Out in the village children have been gathering up chestnut conkers bursting out of their spiky green jackets, all shiny and new. Now they scuffle through the piles of dried leaves on the way to school.
We share the children’s delight at the riches of autumn where God’s glory shines in red and gold in every leaf and in every sky and sunset.
Right on cue, as last year, late November’s ‘darkling thrush’, the Mistle Thrush, has arrived. Is it the same bird returning to a remembered feast of late rowan berries? Its rasping alarm call catches my attention as it tries to take possession of the rowan trees to the dismay of the local blackbirds. Everyone and everything building up supplies for winter.
A flock of starlings appears, as if from nowhere, filling a nearby tree with their chattering. Having re-grouped, in a flash they’re off. What was all that about we wonder? Will they be joining some local Sussex coastal murmuration tonight?
The last of the summer quince fruits maturing indoors give off their delicious fragrance. There is the fruitful smell of rotting leaves bedding down for the winter and of rich fungi in the woods. The sounds of geese and swans marking the arrival of the winter visitors to the local Arun river. Just some of the sights, sounds and smells of autumn.
Fading Glory –obstinate questionings
But now as we enter the ‘unclothed’ part of autumn a feeling of late November nakedness sets in. There’s change and decay in the air. The countryside is running down towards the shortest day, bringing us darker nights with nipping frosts in the air.
This is also a season of ‘obstinate questionings’. The recent Remembrance Day a reminder of lives lost in wars, of broken dreams, daily troubles and sorrows still faced by too many in different parts of the world. A renewed sense of the shortness of life. The falling leaves a picture of our transience on this Earth. We hear the melancholic musing of the poets:
“Not for these I raise
The song of thanks and praise
But for those obstinate questionings
Of sense and outward things,
Fallings from us, vanishings;
Blank misgivings of a Creature
Moving about in worlds not realised, …..
…. Whither is fled the visionary gleam?From Wordsworth’s ‘Intimations of Immortality’.
Where is it now, the glory and the dream?”
An Advent Dream
I look again at this other photo of the Forest of Dean and I see something different now. I see ‘the world charged with the grandeur of God‘ with bright morning light springing in the east full of promise. The gate invites me to explore.
“The world is charged with the grandeur of God...”
Yet despite all the damage that we humans have done….
…”There lives the dearest freshness deep down things;From G.M.Hopkin’s poem ‘The Grandeur of God’
And though the last lights off the black West went
Oh, morning, at the brown brink eastward, springs —
Because the Holy Ghost over the bent
World broods with warm breast and with ah! bright wings.“
Though ‘the last lights off the black West‘ are gone, God has not finished with this ‘bent‘ world. His Spirit has ‘brooded‘ over it with ‘warm breast‘ since the beginning of time.
For the present Creation groans in pain as if in childbirth waiting for its liberation from the bondage of decay (words from Romans 8:22-23). We too, wait for the return of the One who created all things, Christ in shining glory coming back to earth to establish a ‘new heaven and a new earth’.
With Heaven’s brightness an eternity of ‘golden hours’ is coming.
What special moments have marked your autumn this year?
Next time – join me for a look at our village’s life in winter.
The two images of the Forest of Dean are by Jonathan Billinger