An autumn week in Switzerland, Grand Risoud

Le Brassus

Le Brassus

Day 1, 26 October, a drive to Le Brassus, home to Switzerland’s extraordinary haute horlogerie fine watch movements. A rustic, quiet town of 6,000 on the edge of a magnificent forest.

Autumn has left me spellbound for as long as I can remember. The colours, the smells, the textures. But more than anything, the sense of a page turning in our lives. I grew up in Iowa, where seasons are rude and they change abruptly, a trimestrial reminder of the essential inconstancy that is part of our lives: change helps us to move on.

Beauty as we’ve known it in summer gives way to the promise of beauty in autumn. Fall, as we called it in Iowa, passes on the baton to winter, an arrogant and unbending season feared by old people, avoided by those heading into the senior years – but loved by risk-taking wee folk who adore snowstorms, unexpected ice patches and the thrill of air so cold you feel you can’t breathe.

Autumn in western Switzerland lingers in a way I don’t remember from my childhood. Just as I begin to think the rich colours have peaked, they show their stamina and power. They endure another week as we hold our collective breath, hoping the wild winds of the alpine winters will hold off. They always do, until well into the first week in November. In canton Valais, along the Rhone river, the dry and warming foehn winds blow, letting the late harvest grapes ripen for another vintage of some of the world’s finest sweet wines.

This is what my autumns look like, starting with 26 October.

On change: my parents were married 26 October 1937. My mother wore a chocolate brown velvet dress with tiny buttons all down the front and an extraordinary brown satin bow hat. She was beautiful and her face was shining with hope, holding autumn flowers for the photo. She didn’t yet know she would lose her first child, or live to be 95.

My father was upbeat and handsome, five years short before the Navy uniform he wore in the second world war made him handsome in the way military officers are, everywhere in the world. My parents would have been astonished at the idea that one of their daughters would live in Switzerland in 2015, taking photos like this and remembering them, their love of beauty and of nature. When I smell the forest, its ferns and underbrush, the moss and the wood, I think of my father, a carpenter; what a gift to leave me.

The Grand Risoud forest shown here is Europe’s largest contiguous forest.

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