Heather, Berries and a Disappearing Lake

I don’t know about your patch of the world, but over here we have reached the seasonal in-between time. It’s not quite summer any more, but at the same time, autumn is barely a glimpse of a visitor looming on the horizon. Trees and bushes are still decidedly green (save for those that succumbed to the intense summer heat we had for most of August, and thus skipped Autumn’s red in favour of a desperate brown). The giant sun flowers in one of the gardens on the block are still dancing fearlessly in the wind and the balcony garden is bravely ploughing through with some late summer blooms and produce.

The mood is shifting though.

Summer wildflowers are fading, we had more windy and overcast days this week, and I spotted the first flock of migrating birds of the approaching season. Every week the dark sets in noticeably earlier and the night sky greets us a bit sooner. We haven’t had really cold days yet (mostly around 20 degrees) but the morning and nights are decidedly more cool than before so the hints of colder weather are there.

It’s a lovely time to be outside and spot the progressing signs of seasonal change. Right now the heather is in full bloom and the autumn berries are gradually getting ready for picking hands and beaks. Everything is still green but it has been fun to spot the eager leaf starting to colour here and there. I haven’t spotted any mushrooms yet, but I’m confident that it will be any day now.

The few hints of colder weather and the mood shift have made me try to think about projects and things I want to make for the upcoming season. Usually the plotting part is half the fun for me, even when my plans don’t come to much. This year though I find it really hard to set myself to it. I think with everything (Everything!) going on and so much uncertainty about how my life will actually look like in a month, two months, let alone this winter, it’s just hard to plan and get excited for things. This season I actually have quite a number of things in need of replacing so it would be nice if some mind space could clear up to tackle that.

I love Autumm, and will be soaking up as much of that season as I can (or as much as the covid situation will allow) but for now I’m enjoying taking it day by day and see the change of seasons and relish the anticipation of what is to come.

A small warning -in the next paragraph I’m going to talk a bit and show the effects of climate change in my area. I’m not usually in the habit of putting a warning out when I talk about things some would rather look away from, but in a week where pictures of yet another series of devastating fires, record breaking temperatures and apocalyptic orange ash filled skies on the American West Coast, I can sympathize with people from whom the trauma might be too raw to see yet more evidence of how rapidly the consequences of climate change are accelerating on earth. However I neither want to paint a rosy and consoling image by only showing pretty cut-out pictures of where I walk while not also pointing out some of the very real things going on there. So if you are up for it, read on.

We hadn’t been out to the close-by nature reserve for a while, because a pandemic is going on and this can be a very busy trail during the summer. One of the side consequences of Covid is that more people are visiting these places (instead of say, going to the pub), meaning there’s a bigger pressure on nature. So much so that conservation organisations have sounded the alarm bells as they can’t (and do not have the funds to) keep up. There is more to say on this but I don’t want to get sidetracked so I’ll just leave it at: please pick up you garbage and leave the wildlife alone.

These photos might not seem that shocking on their own. Someone who never has been here might not even notice what’s so exceptional about them. Except, this is supposed to be a large lake in this particular nature reserve. This heathland is dotted with lakes and it’s the home for birds, fish and other wildlife. While I have seen it in summer droughts before,when lakes shrunk considerable under the summer sun, to be greeted by this was quite a shock to say the least. Obviously this is not on par with the orange skies on the American West Coast (and earlier in Indonesia) but that is kind of the point isn’t it, it’s visibly happening everywhere.

Swipe to see how it looks now v.s. how it usually looks (mind the tree stump)

The lakes are not the only thing going on here. Three years of consecutive record breaking dry and hot summers have taken such a hold on nature in this country that part of it is already beyond recovery at this point. Needles to say that conservationist are sounding all kinds of alarm bells. At present it is already visibly happening as the heather growing on the heaths have been deeply affected. There are places where it just isn’t growing at all this year because it is just too dry. The area in which I live is one of the driest, so I feared the worst for this place, fortunately as you can see there were still areas that were blooming plenty. It would be dishonest though to not point out that there were big areas of dead vegetation.

Seeing it happen so fast paced in our direct area (as we probably all are seeing) is incredibly intense especially in a week were fires and the ongoing world wide pandemic are plastered all over the web. It was so weird to still see people post this stuff with the tag line ‘climate change is real’. I feel after years of big catastrophes (fires, floods etc) and more gradual changes such as the one described here, it is evident that of course it is real and that we are collectively beyond arguing that. Instead we ought to all be doing something about it and putting pressure on government and commerce – which I realise is easier said than done as it’s held together by white supremacy and the stranglehold of capitalism. With all of us being so traumatized of… well, everything, while also trying to keep our lives and livelihoods somewhat going, it’s a big effort.

I’m sorry to leave you with such an ending. I wish I could spin something positive from it, but that doesn’t feel fitting in such a week…month…year? However being too tired and raw in the moment does not mean there is no hope for change whatsoever. I so much wish for the people in the affected fire and smoke areas to be safe and have have breathable air again. I hope we’re all able to find some sparks of rest, joy and determination in equal measures this week.


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