Author Katherine May invites you to step out into the crisp autumnal air and reflects on the beauty of nature in September. In each of her new monthly columns, she’ll describe a different way she’s found enchantment this month: small, seasonal acts of noticing that feel magical, and which carry bigger meanings for mental health, happiness and the ability to cope with a relentlessly changing world.
Author Katherine May On Enchantment In September
Autumn is my domain.
Maybe it’s because I’m a September baby, but as the year turns towards winter, excitement kindles in my gut. Here come the luxuries we’re denied in the hot months: the long, dark nights, cold enough for a duvet. Hot baths, bonfires, thick socks. I like everything about it.
Most of all, I like the mode of attention that this season demands. Scatterbrained all summer, I find my focus at this time of year. Autumn asks us to look closely, first for blackberries, and then for damsons, conkers and eventually for mushrooms. There are the first frosts, the early mists, the beams of light that filter through the trees. There is a particular magic to this time of the year, a sense of witchy imminence.
I sometimes wonder if nature really is so abundant in this moment, or whether I’m just looking more closely. I’ll admit that the summer has me hiding indoors, slathering myself in sunscreen and insect repellant, and carefully staying hydrated. When the air is crisp, I’m called to go outside. I think that I’m noticing all the wonderful new things around me, but that’s not really how it works. The wonder was always there. My noticing brings the magic.
This week, I went out for a walk with a dear friend, and while we puffed up the steep Kent downs, I noticed that my boots were getting wet from the morning dew and that the hedgerows were veiled in spiderwebs. The summer umbellifers – already dried to a crisp in the heatwave – were pale and skeletal, their seedheads a cluster of stars. I found myself pulling out my phone to photograph them, pointing out the way the light hit them, saying how everything sparkled. It was such a privilege to be here early in the day, while the paths were quiet and the fields felt uniquely ours.
There was that magic, waiting for me. All those things I noticed were ordinary, really, nothing special. But I brought something to them: a deep engagement, a need for change. A willingness to be enchanted.