the long golden afternoon of the year

Happy Thanksgiving! Many of us are saving our revels for the weekend, but it’s always the right time to appreciate the season of Thanksgiving — on the third Thursday of November in the United States — as the leaves fall and darkness covers the Northern Hemisphere.

Like spring, the season turns into an effusion of colour — this time as life withdraws in preparation for a long cold sleep. Maples, oaks and many deciduous trees lose chlorophyll in a blaze of warm shades.

A green Japanese maple turns a rainbow of shades. A European oak, that king of fairytale forests, carpets the ground with acorns and leaves like jigsaw puzzle pieces.

In spring we seek out the blooming cherry trees, and in autumn we hunt for the golden gingko with leaves like late afternoon sunlight on water, glowing yellow against the grey November skies.

The ginkgo tree is the official tree of Tokyo and its leaf is the official symbol of the city. Like the pink star of the cherry blossom, the wing-shaped ginkgo leaf is quintessentially Japanese.

Autumn comes on the woods and parks of London like a storybook painter. As the weather gets colder, mist and rain turn the green places into backdrops from books like Wuthering Heights, The Secret Garden and The Hound of the Baskervilles.

Birds stopping in London on their way south can enjoy the rich fields of fallen acorns, seeds and nuts, and of course, humans all too willing to feed the greedy waterfowl. Sometimes we watch the birds get pretty aggressive — even though there’s more than enough for everyone.

It’s a beautiful time for a walk in the park. When the clouds part and the bitter wind dies down, we can still loosen our scarves, push back our hats and feel a bit of late afternoon sunshine.

Truly we have much to be thankful for; and much to anticipate, share, and give this Thanksgiving. We wish everyone a good feast!

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