A few weeks ago I put on my leather jacket for the first time in a while. I wear it most often in September and October, generally the only months likely to have reliably dry, sunny but cool days. I’ve never had it rain-proofed, you see, something of a drawback for an article of outdoor clothing in England! And of course the tawny leather blends nicely into an autumn landscape. I feel somewhat part of the scenery, and wearing it in conjunction with a brown felt fedora really puts a spring and a swagger in my step. Sometimes I even get accompanied by a rendition of the Indiana Jones theme from a group of passing schoolkids, clearly unaware that they’re far from the first to make that joke.
One of the joys of wearing a long-neglected coat is the voyage of discovery that is putting your hand into a pocket. What might meet my fingertips? Perhaps a ticket or service book, perhaps a receipt offering clues to what we were eating 10 months ago. Usually at least two or three empty (hopefully!) specimen tubes on hand for catching small invertebrates. This time my hand brushed against a smooth, hard, rounded object – a conker, or horse chestnut. They’re my autumnal talisman, and at least once a year I end up selecting and pocketing one to carry as a charm.
These solid, weighty, natural objects are a tangible connection to seasons past, proof positive that it was more or less the same person who experienced a previous October. Something solid to wrap my fingers around. Taking deep breaths, I hold it and imagine the world back into being. Every time I reach into a pocket, I’m reminded to go on being the sort of person who stops to admire horse chestnuts, to turn them in my hand, see them shine and perhaps pop another one in my pocket for next year: a message to my future self. I need such nudges. One year on from writing this, I’m still finding my feet on the naturalist’s path.