Autumn is my favourite time of year – from the early Indian summer days through to the cosy, windy, copper leaved days of late Autumn and early Winter. This year, it is also we are stardust’s first birthday since relaunching on 15 September 2016. To celebrate, I’ll be sharing giveaways and freebies all through September, so do sign up to the we are stardust journal to be the first to hear.
I started we are stardust as a way to share and celebrate moments of wonder for the natural world with our loved ones.
Both art and science require us to use our imagination to gain a deeper understanding of nature and our place in the world. Art is a creative expression based on our experiences of the world. Science is our search to understand how the physical world works. In the words of Professor Brian Cox, “deeper understanding confers that most precious thing - wonder.” That is exactly what we are stardust hopes to inspire: a moment of wonder.
This Autumn, I’ve pulled together a few of my favourite signs of the season and why they are how they are. Enjoy!
Anatomy - rosy cheeks
I love the feeling of the cool air on your skin bringing a fresh, rosy flush to the cheeks during crisp, Autumn walks through the changing landscape (and if it's not too cold, spending a bit of time sketching!). It turns out our rosy glow is thanks to our body trying to keep us warm by constricting the little blood vessels in the surface of our cheeks – called capillaries – so that less heat is lost through the blood. Sometimes these capillaries burst from the increase in pressure of trying to force the same amount of blood through a smaller blood vessel. This bursting results in our rosy cheeks.
Astronomy - emerging constellations
As the nights start drawing in, clear skies give us time to gaze at the mysterious (spooky?) full moon and some new stars. The brilliant star Capella, Latin for ‘nanny goat’, starts ascending above the northeast horizon as does the constellation Cassiopeia, apparently named after a vain queen from ancient Greece who apparently boasted about her unrivalled beauty. Since I was kindly gifted Astrid & Rose’s beautiful rose gold Cassiopeia necklace, I am definitely going to be looking out for the constellation in the sky this Autumn.
Read more about how to find Capella and Cassiopeia in the night sky.
Botany - changing colours
You can’t have Autumn in the UK without red, yellow and copper crunchy leaves twirling around as they fall from tree branches above. I still have to crunch the leaves when I see them lying on the pavement!
During the summer months, leaves filled with the green biomolecule chlorophyll use energy from sunlight, carbon dioxide from the air and water from the roots to produce food for the tree – a process called photosynthesis. As the days get shorter in Autumn there is less light and water and the trees start to shut down their food producing leaves (they will have stored enough food during the Summer months to last them the Winter). Some of the Autumnal colours such as orange and yellow have been in the leaves all along and we only start to see them when the green colour fades. Other colours, such as bright reds and purples, are due to left over bits of food in the leaves and brown colours are made from food-production waste left in the leaves.
Zoology - Hibernating animals
After feasting on the Autumn harvest, many animals start to find their cosy, Winter hideouts. Reading about animals that hibernate on the Woodland Trust website, I was amazed to read about the Hedgehog who – after gorging on berries, beetles and worms in the Autumn harvest – finds a nest site in November and begins to slow its heart rate down from 190 beats per minute to 20 so it uses less energy to survive. It also decreases its body temperature, usually about 35 degrees, to match that of the outside.
I don’t have a hedgehog card (yet!) but I do have one about the Boreal Owl which, like most of us humans, finds a suitable nest site and then goes about making it its home. Being a home bird myself, I love spending time nesting to make my home cosy for Autumn.
WHICH MOMENTS OF WONDER DO YOU NOTICE IN AUTUMN?
I'd love to know what you notice about the Autumn and if you ever wonder, why things are the way they are? Or try to sketch the beauty around you? Share your summer moments of wonder by tagging photos on Instagram with #amomentofwonder or using the hashtag #amomentofwonder on your tweets.
Here’s how my Instagram followers answered this question:
@prettynotic I’m definitely looking forward to the transition to Autumn in colours and seasonal shifting. And that I'll be harvesting my tomatoes soon.
@nination86 I love the seasons changing! I grew up in the Caribbean so we had summer year round (don't get me wrong, it was AWESOME) but to me autumn and winter were always things from the movies! So when the leaves start to change and I as put more and more clothes on, the adult in me moans, but the child in me gets a little thrill!
@amyrbrts Yesterday I got up at my usual time and realized I hadn't missed the sunrise. Opened the back door and watched it in a cool dewy breeze (not possible in deep summer here - it's hot and humid no matter what time of day or night in July here). Signs of autumn!
@helloquietx I love the shift to autumn; the edge in the morning air, the golden light of September that is like no other month, the pleasure of digging out woolly jumpers and boots, of curling up on the sofa after an afternoon gardening... and rediscovering Sunday roasts (which never seem quite right in summer).
@roseheartandgrey I really love decaying objects! So I look forward to the 'dying embers' of the previous season's plants and flowers as the year rolls into the next phase.
Very interesting bit about why our cheeks turn rosy in the cold — blood vessels bursting! Wild. Also, how crazy that a hedgehog slows its heart rate to 20 bpm! Nature is truly incredible.
My favorite things about the summer – autumn shift is, of course, the cooling weather but also the clouds! We get so many beautiful, large fluffy clouds and I love them so much. Also, soup. Soup is my favorite. I’m looking forward to the weather being chilly enough to properly enjoy a bowl of hot soup.