Serenity. October can offer this feeling. A certain stillness creeps up on you; that of the season closing, but closing gracefully with a warm and hazy sun. The radiator effect in October, by which the lingering heat stokes up the heavy dews, causes a kind of dopiness like a wasp drunk on fermenting apples.
Autumn is mellow season, observed not so much through the colours of leaves but by the manifestations of a tranquillity offered by the sun, accepting that it should gradually retreat and inspire the shifting tones of sky and sea. There was once an October morning, driving along the coast road from Puerto Pollensa to Alcudia when I had to stop.
The seascape was calmness, the haze creating a mercury pool of barely rippling water, the hills of Manresa and the sky above them a neutral kaleidoscope of grey and silver. Rather than the russets and golds traditional of an autumn, you could see a Majorcan autumn as a pastel black and white image, a refraction in negative of the now-being-forgotten vibrancy of blues and yellows of summer. But no less uplifting.
“I’m off to gather mushrooms,” someone can say and someone does say. A trek up to La Victoria and to usher away the mountain goats before they can snaffle all the fungal booty. It’s that time of the year. Into the forests they go, as there is also the search for firewood, even if they’re not supposed to. Back home, wood-burners, unused for several months, are now being relieved of old ash and prepared for re-commissioning.
The dew hangs thick on the grass. Snails slime out from beneath stones. There are the tree crickets - I think they’re tree crickets; I’ve never been entirely sure. They are in the act of dying, slamming against walls in their last moments of disorientation before coming to rest and to await the ants. Flies crawl on terrace furniture and erratically buzz into faces; persistent, they land on arms or lobes, seek out spots to rub their legs in kitchens and bathrooms. The spray should kill them as well the autumn-returned mosquitoes, but rarely seems to.
But the tranquillity can be disturbed. The tramuntana north wind blows south, forcing sand back against the wooden barriers and the flaking paint of shore-side villa walls. The sea rebels against the turquoise of summer. Turbulent, tossed by the tramuntana, it shrieks a green-seaweed darkness - an army colour, that of a tank, splashing up its detritus onto the water’s edge, building castles of kiwi-moulded sea grass on the sand. The anger of the bay roars through the night, remonstrating with a forlorn and desperate desire to eke out just a few more hours and days of the season.
From wardrobes and drawers come sweaters and sweatshirts, destined for the wash to fragrant-conditioner away the mustiness accumulated in the dead air of summer. Heavier clothing may be needed, but there are still tourists spirited enough to be shirtless and to take the iciness of a beer where a tea is demanded. But then there is of course the ‘veranillo de rosas otoñales’, the Indian summer spell magicked in by the Archangel Michael at the end of September until the spell is broken by Saint Martin in November and when Martin himself produces the magic of the Cathedral’s reflected ‘eight’.
Eventually though, it’s as if everywhere just gives up. The resorts enter their final staggering moments of seasonal twilight. A souvenir shop with lilos that no one needs, flip-flops flopping forlornly on racks, the Pepsi and soft drinks cabinets shuttered over as the stock is allowed to run out.
The tabacs stop bothering to order newspapers. The flags on the beach indicate that lifeguards are still on guard, but there are ever fewer for them to watch over as the hotels limp on with their last remaining guests before the whitewash and brown paper are dragged out of the store-rooms and smothered across the insides of the glass facades.
The streets become ghostly. At night there is no one; no one wandering to or wandering back, no one shouting or laughing.
Gone is the tribute entertainment of the evening that blows on the breeze from the hotels and disturbs a now fading memory of a hot night on the terrace. The trikes no longer squeak past, their occupants no more shrieking or screaming. The wire fences go up, creating no-go areas of hotel complexes, the pine needles get tossed and pile up against every wall along with sweet wrappers fallen from litter bins and a yellowing page of a newspaper taken on the wind.
And finally, October passes to All Saints, when the final rites are read and the season really is gone. But it will return. Come back soon, and come back stronger.