By Cathy Eden
Autumn is, without doubt, my favourite time of year. The debilitating heat of summer is over; the smog-clearing wind, for which Capetonians are never grateful, has died down. The city's mountains are etched against a sky that's a bright, pencil-box blue, and the tablecloth that billows and spills over Table Mountain in wild weather settles (for a while) into a gentle drift.
The days may be warm but there's a bite in the morning air and a dank chill after sunset.
'My goodness, there's quite a nip, isn't there?' we say in surprise, as if this were an unusual phenomenon. What we are really noting is that it's almost time to change gears: to shake out the winter clothing and order in the firewood while it's still good and dry.
Two events tell me that the season has shifted irrevocably. The first is the day when I open my front door to discover that my minuscule garden is suddenly shin-deep in brown leaves. It's as if the two oak trees across the road are in cahoots: 'Ready, steady ... go! Drop the whole load while she's not looking!' I don't sweep them up until the rain arrives and makes them soggy.
While they are still crisp, Eva, my elderly cat, pounces among them on her rickety legs, remembering her youth. She and I both feel more frisky in the cooler weather. I want to be out walking, drinking in the sharper air and the golden glow that nature takes on. I want to stamp along the shore, on one of those luminous mornings that are all the more precious for being the last hurrah of departing summer.
The second event is even more defining for me than the deluge of leaves. It is the day that the cold strikes my bones in a particular way and I decide that my thin summer quilt will no longer do. It is time to Get Out The Duvet. Because it is stored in a high cupboard with the Christmas tree, climbing the ladder always evokes a sense of occasion: the grand unpacking of one feels as significant a ritual as the other.
That first snuggle under its downy thickness is one of the delights of winter. (Also, I can at last safely play 'catch-my-toes' with Eva without getting my feet lacerated.) From that day on, I succumb to all things cosy. Whites and brights are packed away and the clothes in my wardrobe turn to navy, black, plum and grey. I prefer dressing for winter: I love scarves and boots and layers of soft, comfy knits.
Lettuce and cucumber lose all their appeal and vanish from my fridge. Instead, I want hearty soups, succulent stews, roasted vegetables and baked apples with cinnamon and cloves. As the weather gets colder, I find my myself building jigsaw puzzles. I know my metamorphosis is complete the day I feel an insatiable craving for wool. I've inflicted a granny-square crocheted blanket on every member of my immediate family, but that doesn't stop me making them.
It's not just the desire to be out of the rain that brings on these urges. Outdoors, nature is settling down for a dormant, reflective phase and it's fitting that we are in synch with her rhythm. It is a time of inwardness, rest and completion of cycles. I relish the changing of the seasons, and the special gifts each one brings. For me, the autumnal mood is one of gratitude and appreciation. Summer, with all its outwardness and vibrant activity, will be the more enjoyable because of it.
· Published in Edgars Magazine, April 2016