It is not autumn itself that's the problem. No, I love autumn, with its energising climate after the alternating fug and disappointment of the English summer, its warm colours glowing in lowering sun, its iconography of harvest bounty and shenanigans in the borderlands between this world and the next. Potion brewing and tree hugging and pulling in to the nest, I have to say, it suits me well. Except. When I go to see the dentist, the smell of the waiting room makes me want to run. The airport feels only marginally less stifling than the plane, and the anticipation of a dreaded meeting is as unsettling as the meeting itself.
I loathe winter. Winter is dark, it is bleak, and it is riddled with viruses. If I praise Jesus for nothing else, I am thankful for Christmas, but I would take Yule or Hanukkah or Diwali, or any other reason to light candles or fairy lights, I'm not fussy, I need those twinkles! For this reason, my autumnal pleasures are tinged, always, with the dread of what is to come.
In recent years, I have tried different strategies to manage this. The most successful was giving birth to two children during autumn, a feat my sisters in law also obliged me by completing. In this way, I have ensured that from October until Christmas, I am too damn busy organising parties and presents and seasonal joys to ruminate very much. But a close second has been just getting out into it. In autumn, I seek dead leaves like a dog pursues approval. I cant get enough. Will travel for right vista. Sadly, my family don't share my leaf-love, and they hold me back, they really do, and many is the year I must content myself with my local woodland.
This is the tale of one such year.
I don't know what I was thinking. A collage was old hat, a photograph too incorporeal. My craving overpowered my reason, perhaps, but I decided, in homage to dead leaves, to make a dress. Now, I'm no designer, but my dress needed no pattern. Nor am I a seamstress, but my dress did not have seams. No, this dress was an immersion in death and decay and the glory of fallen leaves, and this dress was bonded with glue.
There were steps to take. Park trips and woods trips, swerving pull-overs in the car when I spied a roadside specimen. There were leaves drying in newspapers and marinating in tubs of glycerine dotted about the house. There were borrowed mannequin limbs stacked in the hallway, and rods of glue spilling onto the floor. Frankly, it would have been quicker to drive to a decent landscape (I know a few, I could do a tour!), and bask in the glory in situ, but I was flush with an idea. And so, I present to you below, my opus. Thank you, for your applause.
I donned this gown only once - it was delicate, and the children said it looked better on Myfanwy, as we dubbed the mannequin. Myfanwy stood in our hallway like a seasonal totem for over a month as the leaves, even after their embalming, dulled and grew brittle. At Halloween she complimented her glad rags with a witches had and toad familiar, but as Christmas neared, my daughter confessed that her glaring presence at the foot of the stairs was giving her nightmares, and Myfanwy was disassembled and returned to her home, the dress discarded, as dead leaves are fated to be. That felt kind of right, in the end.
For Chloe's October prompts, please see below....
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