Outdoor activities with a healthy dose of curiosity, brought to you by Laure Latham
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In Japanese, Fuubutsushi (風物詩) translates as “a poet’s reminder of a specific season,” a beautiful concept that doesn’t translate well English. It means the things (feelings, scents or images) that evoke memories of the coming season. Today, September 21, is the first day of the fall and I want to celebrate the new season with Fuubutsushi, taking you on a sensorial outdoor trip to my favorite season.
Dead leaves are a fuubutsushi of the fall. No autumn walk or camping trip would be complete without yellow, red and brown tree leaves blown away by the wind and falling on the trail. I grew up in tropical countries where there’s no such thing as dead leaves blowing in the wind. Autumn in the south Pacific or in Thailand is a rainy season with intense storms and magnificent light festivals. In temperate climates like North America or Europe, autumn is a feast for the eyes.
A few of my favorite autumn sights are…
Conkers falling under horse chesnut trees in Hyde Park
Blooming purple and pink heather on the moors in Scotland
Yellow round leaves of mountain ash trees in Alaska
Red vine leaves in vineyards after harvest in Occitanie
What other sights are a fuubutsushi of the fall for you?
Nothing says fall like warm apple cake, roasted chestnuts or the scent of fresh rain on a forest floor covered in dead leaves. All these smells are fuubutsushi of fall. If I were to describe specific smells or scents that smell like autumn outdoors, I would say…
The woody smell of mushrooms growing on tree stumps
The tang of mist in the morning when you are hiking and it creeps into your nostrils, letting you know that summer is over
The smoke of wood fires rising from pubs in the British countryside
Touching is such an important sense when we venture outdoors, yet it almost always takes a backseat to seeing. It’s a shame because each season has its tactile particulars and fall is a beautiful season for touching stuff in nature.
A few of my favorite things to touch in the fall are…
Sweet chestnuts, so smooth once I’ve pried them out of their prickly casing
Dead leaves, stiff and dry, that I can pick up and make into a fan or that my girls can play with when they are in a big pile
Pumpkins, when making Jack o’lanterns and digging with my hands to remove the slimy innards
Puddles! A delight to jump in with boots and a staple of many fall hikes wherever they are. Certainly, a given of any British or Scottish walk in cooler weather
To quote Marcel Proust, “The taste was that of the little piece of madeleine which on Sunday mornings at Combray (because on those mornings I did not go out before mass), when I went to say good morning to her in her bedroom , my aunt Léonie used to give me, dipping it first in her own cup of tea or tisane.” Taste brings back incredibly vivid memories and fall is a wonderful season to indulge in all tasty things.
A few of my favorite things to taste in the fall are…
Apples. Love all things apple, especially if I can pick them myself off a tree.
Pumpkin soup. Love pumpkin at all meals actually, from breakfast to dinner. Here’s my selection of pumpkin recipes.
Roasted chestnuts. Again, love chestnuts to bits. Bonus points if I’ve picked said sweet chestnuts on a hike with my girls. It can be a hassle to forage for chestnuts but it’s also very playful and the smell of roasting chestnut in someone’s home is incredible.
If you live in Northern California, you’ve walked past California bay laurel trees many a time. What most people don’t realize is that California bay laurel nuts are absolutely delicious. I discovered them on a hike in the East Bay and ate a few raw (which apparently is not the right way), instantly falling in love with the flavor. Edible East Bay has a neat post on foraging and cooking bay laurel nuts.
Last but not least, the sense of hearing! Big fuubutsushi here. To better illustrate these fuubutsushi of fall, I’ve used videos below. I hope you will forgive that none of them are mine but they convey autumn sounds beautifully and you can play some of them during 10 hours to be completely relaxed at home on a dry sunny day, waiting for the weather to turn.
A few of my favorite fall sounds are…
Wind! Love listening to wind ruffling branches and leaves during the first storms of the season.
Rain! Rain in temperate climates has very soothing sounds when it falls on dead leaves.
Red grouse! Hiking in Scotland in autumn, we’ve often disturbed red grouse and heard their “go back” call before watching them fly away in the heather.
Walking on dead leaves has got to be the simplest pleasure of the changing season when you hike in a wooded area. I just love listening to the sound my boots make on crunchy dead leaves in the forest. It can be sooooo satisfying.
What about your Fuutubutsushi of fall?