Seasonal synaesthesia

fly agaric in woods
A perfect fly agaric

We’re full into autumn now. The geese started flying in a few weeks ago, and Storm Callum took most of the leaves off our rowan trees. The berries have remained untouched by the starlings, who normally devour them before I can gather enough to make jelly. They may have suffered from this year’s prolonged drought. The dog is spending more time outdoors than in, which is our cue that winter is on its way. We have had days of phenomenal sunsets and dawns, which covered social media (if you happen to follow photography sites) with pictures of lenticular and mammatus clouds, as well as the more generally expected cirrus and cirrocumulus looking like lava. These apocalyptic skies are a result of Rayleigh Scattering in the high atmosphere, where dust is kept aloft by high pressure — hence the old saying, “Red sky at night, shepherd’s delight.”

The skies have coincided with the warm days and cold nights that result from high pressure in the tail end of the year. Some of the weather models predict a cold snap from this weekend, with possible snow in the mountains.

Being neuro-atypical, I think a lot about perception, and how the entire world outside the confines of my individual awareness is bat country. (I’m sure the general population would think the same about me, but they don’t have to try to translate for it.) I can chalk up some experiences to synaesthesia playing silly buggers with my perception; one of those is this strong feeling that it’s going to be a hard winter this year. I feel like I can smell snow on the way, and I have done for several weeks. There’s no rational explanation for this sensation. It’s not specifically a smell, because my synaesthesia doesn’t work like that, but a shape in the air when I breathe. Like most things to do with my oddly-wired brain, I make a note, keep it mostly to myself, and am amused when I start to read other people opining that winter will be a harsh one. The trees have produced lots of fruit, says one, to fatten up the birds so they will survive. While I know of no reason to think that trees set fruit according to the future needs of birds, I love the idea that the flora and fauna are so closely interconnected, and wonder if trees hold committee meetings at which they discuss fruit futures.

I have yet to determine a reliable way of differentiating between synaesthetic silly buggers triggering some sort of topological pareidolia, and real information. But next time someone tells you they can smell snow even though the temperature is in the mid teens, and people are wandering around in shorts and t-shirts, spare a thought for those whose interactions with physical reality don’t sit comfortably near the middle of the bell curve.

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Haar is what we call the sea fog here in the north east of Scotland. There are other places that have similar banks of dense, white cloud rolling in from the sea, of course; the phenomenon is not limited to this part of the world. I’ve seen something similar in San Francisco.

It plays a big part in She Gave Her Heart, He Took Her Marrow, which will be published in Apex Magazine next month, and is as much a part of the land here as the ever-shifting dunes, the tank traps and pillboxes, and the extinct volcanoes.

It was particularly splendid this week, sitting a mile or so offshore and dull grey in shadow but bright, brilliant white in the sun. I tried to take a picture, but I have yet to manage to capture an image of the haar in its full glory.

Haar
There’s something in the haar and it has a taste for cattle

The thick grey band across the horizon is the haar. It’s remarkably stable, and just sits there until conditions are right for it to come into shore.

Apex has announced a subscription drive, with a target of $5,000. As I write this, the funding rocket is showing less than $1,000.

You can find direct links to the subscription links here. It doesn’t cost much to subscribe. Most of the material is online for free anyway, but by subscribing you help make sure that there will be more great new stories from emerging and established authors. If you can’t subscribe, or can but want to do a bit more, you can always add some funds to the tip jar at the bottom of the subscription drive page.

Autumn’s here

It’s that time of year again. I was moving wood from a delivery into the shed earlier, trug by painful trug (the weekend’s sea kayaking has broken me), and a long V of geese flew in overhead. I sometimes wonder why they talk to each other incessantly as they fly. It looks like so much effort to keep those big bodies up, wings incessantly flapping.

There was a second, smaller V, and a couple of geese broke free from this as I watched, trying to join the larger one. I imagined them worrying about directions — they’re all following Jemima, maybe they know something we don’t; maybe Steve doesn’t have a clue where he’s going and he’s going to turn left over there when he should turn right — as they beat the air furiously with those long wings, slightly akimbo in their sprint across the gap, all against a background chorus of slightly squeaky, syncopated honks I could hear before I spotted the birds and long after they had passed.

I felt the season turn a couple of weeks ago, and while I’m sad to see the back of summer, with its sunny beaches, garden barbecues, fledgling birds, wonderful flowers and hazy warm days of having every window open in this granite fridge we call a house, Autumn has always been my favourite time of year. Here in Scotland we often get the best of the year’s weather in a blissful window on the cusp where summer gives way to autumn; it’s as if the sun realises we are given short change on that front (excuse the pun) and throws an extra week or so of blue skies our way just when we think the cold rains have arrived. It’s warm, but not too warm, with cool, crisp mornings and spectacular sunsets.

It’s fungus season, too. I took this picture in Aviemore at the very end of August:

Fly agaric

Fly Agaric is so beautiful when it breaks through its hood, the red still glossy, the cap unblemished.

This one I took in Keil’s Den, Fife, a couple of weeks later.

Cluster of sulphur

These are Sulphur Tufts, named both for their colour and habit of clumping together. I love taking pictures of fungus. They can be so whimsical.

Speaking of whimsy, yet another story that was supposed to be a flash has grown arms and legs. I’m wrestling my way through thick undergrowth to the end, trusting I can cut it back to something manageable once I’m there. While I thoroughly recommend Rand’s The 10% Solution — especially if you often get comments from crit buddies along the lines of overly wordy, padded prose or over-written — sometimes the machete has to come out before the secateurs.