Monday, 12 November 2007

The Remnants of Autumn

A few days ago we had a severe frost. The night had been clear following a series of dull cloudy days and in the morning the sky was completely blue. We have already had the first snow of Winter – in October – finishing off the mushroom harvest. But the larches and silver birches have retained their autumnal colour - a gold which in the sunshine almost glisters against the dark green of the firs. The frost did some damage and with each slight breath of wind more leaves fell. I love this time of year – well I love all the seasons here. But it was on a similar November day that we first moved into the house or rather the former owners moved out and so this time of year has a special place in my heart.

Aware that there will not be many days like this left before Winter truly sets in and the snow comes and covers all, I took my coat and walked up into the woods above the house. I was alone, everything was silent apart from the occasional falling leaf and the crack of twigs under my feet. On this late Autumn day you could see the wood's framework more clearly, the trees were not obscured by leaves, the rocks were clear of undergrowth. There were still a few mushrooms to be seen – the fly agaric of the fairytales, false chanterelles and even some soggy boletes.

I walked my usual mushroom collecting route, bringing me to the top of the hill and a point overlooking a pool surrounded by cliffs. It is an old quarry working but now is overgrown with birch and other trees, the rocks dropped away at my feet into the slate-grey waters. I think each time I come here, that I should throw an offering into the pool, something from my basket of mushrooms. I would hurl it as far as it would go and watch it bounce over the rocks and into the depths. An offering to the gods and spirits of the waters. As the Czechs will never tire of telling you, we (the Brits and the Czechs) are both nations that are descended from the Celts, and a sacrifice to the water – that dark entrance to the Celtic underworld - would seem appropriate.

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