Autumn smells of home. It has an unmistakable chill that rolls straight off the mountains as they prepare for winter's embrace. The ever-present damp undertones which allude to rich fungi that are beginning to thrive. The tang of ripe apples replaces the freshness of summer's freshly mown grass. A hint of cinnamon carries in the air.
I greet autumn like an old friend. Excitement thrills through me as I sense its approach. Since moving to the Highlands, I am even more eager. This setting makes everything more beautiful. Almost unbearably so. Although I see hints of the season popping up around my caravan, with rose-hips and blackberries beginning to bear fruit, its not enough. I want more. Overeager, I decide to seek autumn out. I head to one of my favourite corners of the Highlands where I am hoping to see autumn at its best. I move away from the conifer trees which usually surround me that remain constant throughout the year. I want to hear the crunching of leaves beneath my feet. I seek out deciduous trees, that are beginning to let their weighty leaves fall for another season.
I follow the bumbling river, my eyes sweeping the ground to spy fungi pushing through the brown earth. A perfect replacement for my summer wildflowers. I squelch along the muddy trails, sending me back to a childhood of wellies and splashy puddles. The birds still greet me as I walk, although the frantic notes have melted away for the year. I hope they manage to get some rest before the inevitable, all-encompassing Highland winter arrives. It tests us all.
I barely meet a soul. That is, a human soul. I go against the grain and tend to hibernate in the summer. The Highlands, understandably, attracts a worldwide audience that want to enjoy their summers amongst this rugged beauty. For a private soul, who prefers solitude in nature, this can be a bit off-putting. That, and I'm grumpy when I get too hot. I am delighted by the peace. This will be the first of many autumn rambles.
To celebrate this reunion, I decide to bake apple crumble. An autumn staple. I was raised on this dish and dread to think how many I have consumed in my lifetime. As the early evening draws in, my caravan kitchen smells of simmering apples and I reflect on my day. Autumn and I have come to an understanding. I could never fathom why people enjoyed this season before. The quietness unsettled me after the busyness of summer. It signalled returning to school and colder weather, with even the trees apparently giving up. But I wasn't looking closely enough. This season gives us permission to slow down. Reminds us to rest and be kind to ourselves before winter's grip. I understand this now, and may even hesitantly say this is my favourite season (shh don't tell spring!).
The setting sun reminds me its time for sleep, so with a belly full of crumble, I snuggle in with my winter duvet and drift off into dreams littered with falling leaves...