A morning of mists

Chilly in Edinburgh this morning, cold enough in the early morning and after sunset to see your breath; I can taste the winter on the air. Cold, but beautiful – the mist which often falls in Edinburgh, especially in autumn, lay over the city. By the time I was on Princes Street the sun was just barely above Castle Ridge; the Castle and buildings of the Old Town were faint through the mist, like fading dreams evaporating in the light of morning, or perhaps the reverse, perhaps the daytime city was dreaming itself into being as I watched. The copper-red sun struggled above Ridge, fuzzy and indistinct through the mist, making it glow like a living thing as it curled around old buildings, battlements and the peaks of Arthur’s Seat. An hour later it was a clear, blue sky, crisp, sharp, as if the mist had never been, the world solid and defined, but I saw it change from dreamstate to waking world and know that both are, in their own ways, real and imaginary at the same time.

On the way home tonight the sun had just set, staining the sky red in the west; a darkening sky in the east and a huge, full moon rising in the sky even by 6 o’clock. The mist was rising once more, following the line of the setting sun, like a great, soft blanket being pulled over the city from east to west. The city changes again, slips herself into another form, another reality, another dream. All cities are both real and dream places, their ever-changing faces as much how we see them as any subjective view, presenting perspectives to those who will look and appreciate her special gifts.

The moon and the sun

It’s that time of year when you can look up on a bright, autumnal morning and see the sun in on direction, rising from the sea and look the other way and see the moon hanging in a clear, pale blue sky at the same time. Somehow seeing the moon in daylight always make me think on a scene from the old 70s show Space 1999

The turning of the seasons

Some leaves are clinging to their lush greenery, aided by the bursts of almost summer-like warmth, while some have already begun to dry and turn red and gold. In Mel’s garden some late bloom roses have come out after we trimmed the plants back earlier in the year and some final insects are buzzing round the flowers in the sudden warmth before winter arrives, while the berries hang on the bushes. Walking home the long, red twilight stretches long, thin shadows, skies blue, wispy clouds tinged salmon pink. The wind rustles in the branches and with each little breath more leaves fall to join their cousins in little piles on the ground or to float along the canal alongside the ducks and swans. When the autumn moon rises it is a huge, harvest moon, glowing brightly in a purple-black sky, the stars changing their tempo to their winter configuration. Each warm day now is a gift; you wonder if it will be the last one before the inevitable slide into the long, dark winter.

Moments of transitory beauty

On the way to work, a glorious, almost perfect Scottish autumn morning; the sun is lower in the horizon and its light now stretched out to deeper, warmer tones than the harsher light of summer – we’ve entered the Golden Time. Our location north of the edge of Europe means our weather and climate isn’t always the nicest but it also means we are at the curve of the Earth to see the sun tilt further as the seasons pass us, from the height of summer to the low arc of the sun’s brief appearance in winter. At this time of year, when we are lucky enough to have a clear day, it means the sunlight becomes the most glorious golden-copper hue; against the older buildings constructed of great blocks of native stone rather than mere bricks it looks magnificent.

It looks even more beautiful against our nation’s natural beauty (and regardless of weather one thing Scotland has in abundance is astonishing natural beauty), the warm gold of the autumnal sun matching the colours of the season perfectly, the gold of the harvest being brought in, the leaves browning, crisping, drying, turning, falling. Yesterday morning an almost perfect autumn scene – clear, pale blue sky and the sun, low now in the sky, just above Castle Ridge, shining directly through the rich foliage of the trees in Princes Street Gardens as I passed.

The branches are still full of heavy greenery from summer, but already some leaves are turning, a mix of verdant green with touches of red, brown and gold, the trees equivalent of the man with just a touch of distinguished gray, perhaps. The low morning sun came through them from behind and lit them up, the green still vibrantly alive, the turning leaves glowing as if from inner fire, a last reminder of beauty and life before the long sleep of winter; Edinburgh Castle, her ancient stones warming in the morning sun, the backdrop to this and what a backdrop. It lasted only seconds, the juxtaposition of where I was, where the sun was in relation to me, the trees, but for a few seconds I saw pure beauty shining in a dying leaf and the play of shadows and sunbeams across the Castle. For a few seconds I had no cares in this world, lost in the ephemeral, momentary beauty of my homeland, glowing with the glorious light of an Impressionist painting but infinitely more lovely than any artist’s hand could capture.

Blue, green, gold

Suddenly after a depressingly bad summer (even for someone like me who is allergic to strong sunlight) we’ve had a sudden burst of sunny, warm weather, very summer like; the beaches by North Berwick were packed at the weekend. Ironically as we have this sudden splash of warmth and sun as we move into September and autumn – instead of light until late into the night the darkness is falling earlier each night and as soon as that sun goes down its cool, a coolness that whispers of the change of seasons and the autumn and winter knocking on the door.

Looking up from my book on the way home this evening the sky was the most beautiful shade of blue, glowing with light, the trees in Princes Street Gardens and the side of Castle Hill still a deep, lush myriad of green hues, a brilliant contrast against the blue, long, long shadows stretching out as the slow autumnal sunset drifts into golden beams. When we do get dry, sunny days at this time of year it really is a golden time in Scotland, the sun moving further round the horizon from its position of summer dominance so that now its light is stretched out to softer, more golden-copper tones. And here and there among the still-emerald foliage the odd leaf slowly turning brown; within a few weeks they will all being to turn, crisp, brown and red, fluttering to the ground and I’ll go running through the piles of leaves and kick them in the air because you’re never too old to enjoy that.

And just a few more weeks on from that it will be dark by the time I come home, the deep darkness of winter as the wheel of the seasons turns. My breath will mist in the frigid air and frost will sparkle on the bare branches. And again I’m not sad as some are when summer turns to autumn to winter because I love the seemingly eternal cycle of the seasons; each has its own transitory beauty and each connects us to nature and our world. When the long darkness falls it also means watching my cats contentedly sleeping in front of the fire’s flickering flames, the lights of the Winter Wonderland, the wonderful warmth of a friendly pub after walking in from a cold, dark night, the simple delight of hot, homemade soup after a cold walk. Then the spring will dawn again behind that, then back to summer and Festivals once more. How quickly they seem to go past and yet how everlasting they feel. Goodybe to another summer, welcome to another autumn in its golden crown.