Autumn in the Wood

Marie stood in the clearing, looking through the trees down to the valley below. The leaves were turning glorious autumnal shades of golden, russet and red. Their majesty was intensified by the rich golden light from the setting sun, which illuminated the valley below.

An autumn mist settled on the floor of the valley giving the scene a dreamlike ethereal quality. The valley appeared deserted, apart from a distant plume of smoke which promised warmth and habitation. There was little noise apart from two wood pigeons cooing and distant birdsong, which was a welcome contrast to the sounds in the city.

Marie took of her gloves and bent down to rub the damp moss and fallen leaves from the tree trunk, feeling the rough texture of the bark against her smooth skin. Sitting down she smelt the musty smell of decaying leaves and damp earth and a distant whiff of pine wood smoke. She shivered as the air cooled and pulled her scarf around her shoulders, welcoming the warmth and luxurious softness of the cashmere, enveloping her like a comforting hug.

Feeling hungry she opened the small bag of blackberries she had picked from the hedgerow earlier in the afternoon, savouring the flavour of the fruit and mix of sweetness and a slight sharpness. She opened her flask and watched the steam rising in swirls around it, smelling the rich aroma of freshly ground coffee, reminiscent of the urban pavement cafes she had left behind; a welcome luxury that seemed incongruous in this wild countryside. She sipped her rich black coffee feeling the flavour and warmth spreading through her body as she silently watched the sunset.

As the light faded different sounds filled the air, the rustling of animals moving among the leaves and a solitary owl hooting the trees above above her. She listened intently alert to all the different noises, wondering if they signified friend or foe. The deserted wood no longer felt calm and restful. Marie started to shiver and wished she had brought more warm clothes, matches to light a fire and a shelter from the pervasive autumnal dampness.
Suddenly her plan to sleep out here in the open under the stars no longer felt so romantic. As the mist rose from the valley obscuring the moon and stars Marie gathered her meagre possessions and started walking down the hill, stumbling on the uneven ground eager to reach the warmth and civilisation she had left earlier in the day.
Liz Gregson