We are in drought; everywhere is brown. Leaves are falling and lawns are dead. The on/off Haze is fanned by Saharan winds, hairdryer-hot. Cat bowls dot the pavements untouched. Dogs don’t even go out, let alone lie in the shade. Normally we curse the storms and welcome the dry heat, but these days there is something sinister about the bright white light filtering through the stick-dry trees. From the safety of indoors it can all look rather tempting but venture out for any length of time and the atmosphere is oven-hot, intense. This is not normal.
Images of autumn leaves have always been a memento mori, a whimsy reminder of the fragile cycle of life. Golden forests for mourning cards, fall backdrops for minor-key film credits, dead bracken for sad book covers. This week the piles of fallen leaves are particularly symbolic, because something autumnal has happened in this safe haven of ours, a sudden spanner in the works of our jolly wheel of fortune, cutting into a happy family unit and blotting out their sun, making everything grey.
Winter, suddenly, has frozen the timeline of a man who should have been pottering through his own colourful summer. Panning out in the global wake of the much broader crisis of the missing jumbo jet, this family’s stark and surreal event has been closer to home, a cold crisis on an intricate scale: domestic, undiluted.
Observing from the sidelines under incongruous sun-shiny skies, we are heavy hearted as the news trickles through the interlinked social networks. Like the dry spell, there is nothing we can do, no solace to be found. A very bad thing has happened to a friend, someone very good, a man who coloured the world and who should not (cannot) have gone. Normality has been tipped up, undone, all reason evaporated. Like the drought and the jet, this was not supposed to happen. It is wrong, unscheduled, not in the manual.
Rain is finally expected this weekend. If and when that happens, we look forward to our lawns and leaves shining once more. For one family, though, life will never be quite as shiny again.