Lost in the mists and mellow fruitfulness


Season of mists… John Keats

The school run this morning, and a mist was hanging over the Ochill mountains near my home. In the sharp sunlight of a Scottish September morning, the mist was bright white, like a linen sheet hanging out to dry.

In these early days of September we are more alert to the shift of the seasons. It is noticeably colder, though the sun seems as intense as in the balmier month of August. The nights are drawing in, like the covers of a blanket.

I haven’t yet seen him in the night sky, but I know Orion is there striding across the heavens. I associate him with autumn and am looking forward to meeting him again. He is a constant in a world of change.

I remember a weekend once in Beleek, staying at the Carlton Hotel, just a stone’s throw from the famous pottery. As I remember it, we were leaving early on a Monday morning to head back to Belfast and work. It was pitch black as we walked to the car, and the night sky was clear.

The stars were so bright you could reach out and touch them. Orion was there, a reassuring presence, the perpetual hunter of the universe, the stars of his belt radiant – Zita, Epsilon and Delta. In the near distance the Erne gurgled. The trees were still in the chill of early morning. I felt alive, at one with the world.

It is one of two skies burned in my memory. The other was near Renvyle in Connemara, returning to a dank holiday cottage after dinner in nearby Letterfrack, this time in spring.

When we stepped out of the car, it was as if the sky were falling in on us, so bright were the stars in a sky unpolluted by street lights.

“Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness…” it’s strange how snatches of verse spring into your mind. I used to know Keats’ Ode to Autumn by heart. Now it’s reduced to its most clichéd line.

I doubt my children would even recognise the opening line. Keats has had his day. He’s not cool enough for the curriculum. I don’t even articulate it, just run it across my mind, savouring its mellifluous headiness.

I have given up pointing out the beauty of the world around us, such is the indifference with which my observations are met by a car load of children heading to class.

Perhaps it’s best if they find it out for themselves.