I live in a city where, autumn manifests itself in all its wonderful glory. This is a time, when I undergo a mood change in anticipation of my favourite part of the year – winter. Islamabad, located under the shadow of the Himalayan foothills (the Margalla Range) is blest with a climate, where the scorching summer heat, though painful, is short lived and one can enjoy the sight of flora that may not survive in the lower plains. It is here that the Japanese Sapium Sebiferum and the African Cithralexylum or Fiddlewood (in that order) rank as the undisputed champions of the season. The Federal Capital becomes a riot of colour as Sapium leaves reveal their colour palette – yellow, gold, pink and burgundy, while the Fiddlewood (particularly the ones lining the approach to the Faisal Mosque) turn into masses of ochre and gold.

Nature’s creatures, from the tiny to the mighty, are also affected by the change. Ants, rated as the most industrious of insects (barring perhaps the bees) can be seen scurrying to and fro in a ‘food collection frenzy’ for winter larders, as the survival of their colony will depend on how much they can store. For some creatures, this would be a time to feed voraciously so that they can build up fat. Soon it would be time for them to begin hibernation through the cold season and their bodies will use this fat for both warmth and sustenance.

For millions of food lovers like me, the sight of falling leaves generates excitement, in anticipation of hot soups and stews on the table and our own homegrown favourites – Nihari and Paye on weekends. Autumn also generates hectic activity on the home front for the better halves, as storage boxes are opened and their contents reshuffled to make preparations for the chill that will follow.

The American vocabulary has a different, but more romantic name for this season – ‘fall’. The word conjures visions of leaves detaching themselves from trees and floating to the ground in an amazing variety of aerodynamic displays. Some rotating to the ground as tiny helicopter rotors, others showcasing a rocking motion, while many glide substantial distances in graceful flight.

I am grateful to my Creator, for passing on my love of winter and the two months, to my children and grandchildren. As I watch these little ones running to and fro collecting fallen pine cones, I am reminded of my own childhood, when we too would carry arm loads of cones to be used as fire place tinder at our summer home in Murree.

The months of September and October are a busy time for flower enthusiasts for they would be watching their Chrysanthemums, as buds begin to appear on their last year’s crop of plants. It will be during November and early December that these buds will open into what will always be my favourite bloom. It will also be now that these passionate gardening enthusiasts will be planting seeds to raise seedlings for spring planting.

The residents of Islamabad are fortunate that the luxuriant greenery hallmarking the city is home to a variety of bird life. It gives unending pleasure to watch my fellow citizens putting up bird feeders in their trees to keep these feathered friends from going hungry. This week’s piece would be incomplete without mentioning the hordes of ‘comedians’ that descend on homes and gardens that line the Margalla Road.

These are whole clans of Rhesus Monkeys that forage for food, but cannot control the impulse to do mischief. So, it is that food left outdoors vanishes without a trace, as do clothes and other unattended items. To me however, these rascally creatures provide an endless source of entertainment as I watch them sitting on branches waiting for an opportunity to ‘do their thing’. To me these funny beasts are an essential part of the ‘colours of autumn’.