Autumn began on the day our “Indian summer” departed along with September. The last few days of that golden month were bathed in lemon butter-cream light which sparkled and glinted off gentle waves and river waters, rounded beach cobbles and speckles of quartz. And the warmth clung on, warming rock ‘seats’ beside little waterfalls at the river’s mouth. This gentle September has been enjoyed by leaf and stem, beak and wing, and by the myriad insects completing annual cycles or preparing for altered life stages, and most of all by us. It has been a period of languor and dreaminess, as if every living thing has paused, unhurried, somnolent, waiting, yet coloured seemingly with the very last bursts of energy. On the final day of the month, a single sea otter swam strongly along the shore, dipping and diving through the shimmering, rippling water chasing fish. We watched his hydro-acrobatics, his exuberance and evident joy with our own sense of thrill and delight, and wondered whether he would go on to caper in the rushing river waters. Catch him up? We could not. We turned to watch King Heron, so proudly still and calm, linger in the hope of rock pool harvest.
The first day of October greeted us with the return of westerly winds, churning leaves of russet, crimson, gold and emerald into skirmishing maelstroms of colour. Within hours the gentleness of September was utterly replaced by the promise of wildness to come. At the coast the ‘otterine’ quiescence was gone, replaced by froth and foam and turbulence as winds whipped up waters once turquoise and gold, now gunmetal grey, cobalt and aquamarine. The shore becomes fierce then when sands, shells and ocean detritus are hurled along with crash and boom. Where does the otter go, when even his swimming proficiency would be tested to the full? With the squalls and gusts come rainbows; we are in the ‘Land of Rainbows’ after all.
Accompanying the skirmishes of leaf and twig and proclaiming the onset of Autumn are other wilder encounters. Up on the hills around the Erradale valley, fighting of another kind has begun as roaring stags identify combatant and corral harem, demarcate territory and ready themselves for the rut. And in the early hours before dawn, their roars and bellows echo along the riverbanks and ricochet from crag and hill. They precede even the robin as heralds to the new day and to winter’s distant call.
Now mid-October and another wild visitor approaches from across the Atlantic: Gonzalo will make his presence felt soon. Sometimes hurricanes fling out their last fury at us after passing across the oceans. They say he is ‘ex-hurricane’ and although Gonzalo is weakening as I write, early winds and showers hint at maelstroms anew, whipped waves and foam, debris and damage, and yet, and yet, through the rainbow’s prism, signs of autumn peace to follow.