For your stray attention this weekend
The deep terrain of autumn woods
I began my weekend with a walk in the woods. This is pretty ordinary for me: I go to meet the trees as often as I can. In the summer, though, the woods feel desiccated and empty, almost devoid of life; now, they are damp and muddy, full of scent and movement. Autumn has landed, and the whole place is transformed.
The leaves of the chestnuts and birches are only just turning golden, and were raining down on my head as I passed beneath them. The holly berries were ripening to red. But most of all, the mushrooms were out - finally - sprouting from tree stumps and branches, pushing up from under the leaf mulch.
As I walked, I realised I was looking for an amanita muscaria, or fly agaric, the red-and-white spotted mushroom that crops up all over children’s books. Over the past few years, they’ve spread their mycelium in me, weaving their way into my consciousness. In my mind, they’ve come to symbolise the dark, witchy feminine, the link between healing and women’s secret knowledge. Every autumn, I’ve come to crave the sight of them. They seem to me to be an invitation back into the woods, a beacon showing the way to merge again with the mulchy darkness.