We’ve had the warmest autumn here in 20 years. So says the Salzburger Nachrichten, the local newspaper. I can’t read German well enough to get all the details, impatient as I am, but I can work out the headlines and essentials in the first few lines, which now show up on my Google news feed. Which is progress in itself.
However, I didn’t need the paper to tell me about the weather. Here on Katzenstraße, we’ve been celebrating the glorious, warm fall days for over two weeks now. The sky has been luxuriantly blue, the green wood to our side gently, only gradually, bronzing, and temperatures in the 20s from mid-morning to late afternoon.
A week ago we had visitors from Los Angeles. We took them to Rupertikirtag, Salzburg’s week-long fall festival in honour of its patron, and to Hangar 7, the museum housing the personal collection of cars, motorbikes and airplanes owned by the entrepreneur behind Red Bull energy drink. On both days, we basked in sunshine that was hot but lacking summer’s sting. We breakfasted here on the veranda, sun warming our bare feet and slanting into our eyes.
The cats of Katzenstraße are enjoying the sunshine too. Up the street, the fat pink Persian, lazy and incurious, lies atop a pier, from which she stares at me as I pass on my bicycle. Lisa, the street’s young princess, deprived of her chaise lounge by an inconsiderate human, dozes under a tomato bush. Jimmy, at 19 years the old man of the street, prefers the hood of a car, its metal and glass surfaces intensifying the heat.
Below my window, in the garden at the edge of the wood, quinces shine gold-green. We took advantage of Sunday afternoon’s heat—dressed in shorts and sleeveless shirts—to harvest some of the sweet-sour fruits. Himself will take them to a work colleague who, with his wife, will make jelly or wine or somehow use them. As it was, we plucked less than half; many more remain high in the tree, unreachable from our unsteady ladder. I see the lithe body of a squirrel as it climbs, undulating, through the green-clad limbs, taking advantage of our profligacy to fatten himself for the winter. A russet apple hangs from a branch of an old tree, far, far above our reach, more bounty for the squirrel.
The blackbirds too are feasting on fruit we’ve neglected. They rustle invisibly in the grapevines that droop from the trellis at the back of the house, flitting in among the leaves to feed on the not-quite-sweet hanging grapes. Lying awake in morning’s half light, I hear them through the open window, their song just about to begin. When I bring my laden laundry basket to the nearby clothesline, they murmur with alarm at my proximity, then flutter away.
But the wash I’ve hung out this morning may be the year’s last. Even through these clear warm days, the nights have already begun to chill. The wind, when it blows, brings a shower of leaves as thick as snow. Small yellow, white and black tits explore the interstices between the roof and the rain gutters, looking for secure dry spaces. From nearly every eave hang webs, thick with spiders’ late harvest.
We have turned a corner, as Himself remarked this morning. Last night I watched from the window as the day faded. Milky pink light washed the sky above the blue silhouette of Gaisberg, one of Salzburg’s peaks. Its landscape was lost behind a veil of mist. Today the sky has faded; the light is silvered. The laundry on the line hangs limp and still. The sharp-edged shadows of yesterday have disappeared; light washes the walls inconsistently.
I awoke this morning just before six to a black sky scattered with a few clear stars. It was past seven before I saw the rose-pink light fill the scooped-out silhouette of the mountains on the horizon. An hour later, I caught sight of a single swan on the fishing pond across the way, its reflection glinting startlingly white in brown surface. Even its brightness seemed to emphasise the change. When I first saw the pond, two swans swam in murky waters between the thawing winter ice. The swans do not sail its waters in summer.
I've given up the idea mowing the grass now. There’s little point. They tell us rain and dramatically lower temperatures are coming in two days’ time. And after that, what? Will we get an early snow or more bright clear days?
I can’t say, but I feel the time slipping away.