Autumn or fall, is the season that heralds winter, crackling log fires (some tradition lovers still have them) and dry fruit. For those of us living in the Federal Capital and its surrounding area, this season unleashes a mindboggling burst of colors that change from green to yellow, orange, ochre, red and burgundy before the last of the leaves spiral down to the ground below.

There are two varieties of trees in Islamabad that are autumn show stoppers - Fiddlewood and Japanese Sapiem. The former can be seen in all its ochre glory on the Faisal Avenue as it approaches the great Mosque, while the latter dazzles passing traffic on Murree Road from the Convention Center to Barakahu.

As October turns to November and the evening chill summons forth shawls and light jackets, we know that it is time for the annual family ‘pine cone hunt’, as these make excellent aromatic tinder for log fires. Not willing to monopolize this activity, here are some tips for other log fire enthusiasts. The ‘hunt’ is usually planned for an entire day and is therefore best done on a weekend. It is advisable to carry lots of food, when planning the event as the exercise involved can whet appetites. The best way to tackle this is to dovetail the search with a cookout. The end result is nothing short of a fun filled stress relieving healthy outing.

Now log fires are incomplete without someone sitting before them. The best way to do this is to spread cushions in front of the grate with an ample supply of dry fruit or peanuts. You can always toss the peanut shells into the fire in order to fuel it. However the most fulfilling way to savor the experience is to spread the traditional eating cloth in front of the flames and have your dinner right there.

While lighting and managing a log fire requires enforcement of stringent safety precautions, there is one phenomenon connected to log fires that is universally recognised as the most dangerous (even addictive) to humans. Be warned, never to gaze into the flames as this tends to produce a hypnotic effect that can be most disturbing, especially when one has important chores to do around the house. Log fires also induce sleep and it would be well not to slumber, when you have instructions from the ‘better half’ to take an urgent trip to the store and hurry back with pampers for the grandchild.

Somewhere in this piece, I made a passing reference to the relationship between dry fruit and autumn. I know people, who stock their larders with roasted nuts at the first breath of chill air. Regretfully enough, this is one item on the shopping list that has become almost inaccessible to many in terms of cost.

Autumn is also a season for bird migration. This mass movement to warmer climates and back, includes many species of songbirds. My late friend Dr. Zafar Altaf, who was an unimpeachable authority on cricket and flora was also a bird lover. Very few people are aware that he had created an open aviary for his feathered friends along the sheer bank of the stream that ran past the private botanical garden surrounding his home. With ample supplies of food and arrangements to keep out the cold, he had managed to induce certain varieties of migratory songbirds to nest there on a regular basis.

Autumn is also the best time of the year for a barbeque or a bonfire, which incidentally are great for family bonding and laying the foundation for wedding bells. A friend has often expressed the intriguing notion that sitting around a bonfire has helped resolve family conflicts as if by magic.

All said and done, autumn is the precursor for my favorite time of the year and does full justice to the task allotted to it by Nature. It show cases itself with a fiery outburst of warm colors that will soon be followed by freezing winds, sleet and for those living in the nearby hills, a white blanket of snow.