The serenity of nature

PUBLISHED: 06:26 06 October 2014

Holme beach, Jessica Riederer

Holme beach, Jessica Riederer


There is a sorrow to September, a space left in the sky by the swifts. Plants and grasses, gold with summer’s sun, are tousled now by the first of autumn’s storms. Even September’s songsters speak of sadness. Silent since the spring the robins start again their tragic trickle of a song, telling of winter’s coming. From the autumn-tangled stands of bramble come the introspective chirps of dark bush-crickets. ‘The crickets felt it was their duty to warn everyone that summertime cannot last forever. Even on the most beautiful days in the whole year – the days when summer is changing into fall – the crickets spread the rumor of sadness and change.’ So wrote E B White in Charlotte’s Web.

Change though is a certainty if you live on a planet with a tilted axis in respect to its source of heat and light. (In case you’d never thought about it, you do live on such a planet and that’s the reason for the seasons). After the giddy upswing of May and the fat abundance of Juy and August, must inevitably – so the heavens have it – come the sadness, the sense of loss of September; as leaves curl and yellow, as summer’s migrants wink out one by one, and as the blackberries turn to tasteless pap.

There’s little point in being human, however, if you can’t embrace a magnificent melancholy. Just as seasons go with a tilted planetary axis, melancholy goes with humanity and September is its month. On a damp, storm-wracked day – the day on which the leaden sadness of the end of summer grasps your heart – walk the wild beach at NWT Holme Dunes. Crunch across the deep line of razorshells, witnesses to the astounding productivity of the Wash, and kick the sullen sand with the toes of your boots. To sea the Sandwich terns are gathering, froth-white against the hammered pewter of the water. With them is their nemesis, the dark dart of an arctic skua, fresh from the tundra and with piracy in its eyes. It chases the hapless terns until, worn out, they drop the fish they’ve caught into its thieving bill. Even the Sandwich terns know September’s sadness.

Inland at NWT Narborough Railway Line, the sorrow hangs heavy like an autumn mist. The straggling clematis has flowered and gone to silky seed; the cast of butterflies for which this site is celebrated – spring’s skippers, summer’s blues and hairstreaks – all have flown and died; even the oaks have mildewed in the damp. Yet even as winter’s dark and cold and damp are presaged by the yellowing, dying vegetation all around, you spot a fresh violet little flower on a chalky bank. An autumn gentian, peeking bravely into bloom as all else fades.

September is a melancholy month, but as Henry David Thoreau wrote, ‘The doctrine of despair was never taught by such as shared the serenity of nature.’ In an autumn gentian’s little flower is another spring foretold.

For more places to visit and sights to see in September, visit NWT’s website:

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