A phosphorescent autumn


Does it feel to you like there was something particularly poignant about autumn this year? Was the light different, almost phosphorescent? Or was it just a soothing contrast to my demanding computer screen? And the leaves, so many of them! Falling through the air, thrown back up again in bundles released from four-year-olds’ fingers. I did the same. Too used to keyboards and hand gel, the leaves felt dirty and slimy in my hands. They felt real.

Playing in the leaves I looked up and noticed two birds’ nests in the trees. Pieced together from twigs and other debris in the neighbourhood, they were perfectly adapted and crafted homes from local materials. I realised, in looking, how little time I take nowadays to notice such details. The rhythm of work has changed so dramatically. I tumble from email, to meeting, to Google Doc, to PDF; the spaces in between need to be deliberately created. There is no time to spare; everyone zoomed out.

It’s getting darker now. Outside. Life. It’s when we become most attuned to the phosphorescence of the world, in the dark. This form of luminescence, the absorbing of energy remitted as slow light, lingers in an afterglow. It lives in star stickers on ceilings or in the glorious new glow-in-the-dark puzzle my husband and I recently bought at the zoo, composed of intertwined sea creatures. In her prescient and timely book Phosphorescence: On Awe, Wonder And Things That Sustain You When The World Goes Dark, the Australian journalist Julia Baird thinks that this quality - in the form of an inner glow that we emit - is what might just see us through difficult times. Phosphorescence. I cannot think of a more uplifting word for this autumn.

Anna Harris, associate professor department of Society Studies; Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences


A phosphorescent autumn
Anna Harris