It was just over 200 years ago, in 1820, that John Keats published possibly his most famous poem of all, Ode to Autumn.
With the opening line ‘Seasons of mist and mellow fruitfulness’, and then referencing everything from apples, to bees, to swallows, to hazels, it’s a beautiful poem, all about this bountiful season. Poignantly, it was one of Keats’ last poems, as he died in 1821 but what a great gift to the nation this poem is.
For us at Happydesigner it captures everything we love about autumn, a season which inspires so many illustrations for us.
Trees are especially beautiful at this time of year, and those of you who know us, know we love, love, love trees! We support the National Trust and support worldwide climate projects and dedicated reforestation projects in the UK with Ecologi. We plant a tree for every book project we complete – it’s our way of helping sustain the tree population in the UK, and around the globe. This is something very close to our hearts.
Our fab designer, Sarah-Leigh, has based her latest book on a tree character called Sally Sapling, who witnesses the changing decades are she grows up to be a very mature copper beech. You can read more about Sally Sapling here.
But we were talking about autumn…
Here are some autumn fun facts to brighten your day:
- When does autumn begin?
Well, that depends on which of two dates you prefer. Autumn, as defined by the Earth’s orbit around the Sun, begins on the equinox which falls on 22 or 23 September. But if you look at it from the aspect of compiling climate data, it begins on 1 September and lasts for three months until 30 November, after which winter officially starts.
- More about trees
Unless they are evergreens, trees lose their leaves in winter and it is in autumn that the foliage turns to the spectacular golds, reds, ambers and browns that we love. But why do they do this? During winter there is not enough light for photosynthesis to occur, so the trees are beginning to close down food production and reduce the amount of chlorophyll in their leaves. It is chlorophyll that makes the leaves green, so as it reduces we see the other hues coming through. Which is perfect for us, as children’s book illustrators and lovers of colour.
- Did you know, if you are born in autumn you’ll might live longer?
Strange but true. According to a study by the Journal of Aging Research, babies born during the autumn months are more likely to live to 100 than those born during the rest of the year. Its study found 30 % of US centenarians born during 1880-1895 (therefore living to 1980-95) were born in the autumn months. Bit of an old study (pardon the pun) but it tickled us.
- There’s a special date in 2303
Usually, the autumn equinox falls on either 22 or 23 September, but in 2303 it will fall on 24 September instead. Why? Because the Gregorian calendar is not quite in perfect symmetry with the Earth’s orbit so every few hundred years an adjustment has to be made. This last happened in 1931 and will next happen in 2303. Not sure any of us will be around to see this, even the longer-living autumn babies!
- Autumn or fall?
We tend to say ‘autumn’ in the UK but across the pond the word ‘fall’ is more common. But did you know, the word ‘fall’ used to be in widespread use in England in the 17 th century? Its origins come from the phrase ‘fall of the leaf’. The word autumn entered English from the French ‘automne’ and didn’t become common usage until the 18th century.
And now for some music
We usually talk about books, but you’ll know that Sarah-Leigh is one half of an Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark tribute band, so music is a great source in inspiration.
Here are some popular tunes, themed around autumn. Which ones do you remember?
1 // Autumn in New York by Ella Fitzgerald & Louis Armstrong
2 // Wake Me Up When September Ends, by Green Day
3 // Autumn Almanac, by The Kinks
4 // Harvest Moon, by Neil Young
5 // Leaves That Are Green, by Simon & Garfunkel
6 // November Rain by Guns, N’ Roses
7 // Forever Autumn, by Justin Hayward
8 // September, by Earth, Wind and Fire
9 // September Song, by Frank Sinatra
10 // Autumn Leaves by, Nat King Cole
Quite an eclectic mix, we think. Who’d have thought Frank Sinatra would appear in the same list as Guns N’ Roses? That made us smile.
And finally, a bit about books
The days are getting a little shorter, the lawn needs less mowing, the garden should be less time-consuming… if you’ve been planning to write a children’s book, then autumn is a great time to make a start.
Right, we’re off to kick around in the autumn leaves… we might even stream ‘Ol Blue Eyes’ while we walk.
Written by Jo Smyth (www.wordworker.co.uk)