Finding Things to Enjoy Right Now…(and what not to).

How do we embrace the Autumn?

We may be finding ourselves sliding into worry again (if it ever really left) – for the world is insane, unfathomable, and the news almost offensively-familiar. Some people are back in lockdown and others wonder if and when it will be re-instated. We wait for the doors to shut and try not to think about all the repercussions once more. And this time we will not have the luxury of the long daylight hours, and the beautiful warm weather we enjoyed in the spring. We cannot help but think it will be a phase of quiet dullness with no novelty this time round – we have slightly tired of the ‘well this is making us appreciate reading/ catching up on box set viewing / home cooking’ etc. phrases. Second time round we really don’t want to think about the tiresome problem of finding somewhere that stocks plenty of loo rolls and has a good supply of marmite. We don’t want to plan our wardrobe so that we can look good from the waist up when taking a zoom call. We want to dress up properly and go out! We want to be able to choose a new winter coat and some snazzy boots that we might even be able to show off! For me, even the online yoga has palled a bit, as has the indoor walking. All these things have had their place, and indeed, still help keep us sane, but when we knew the restaurants were open again it didn’t take us long to drop the ‘woo woo’ stuff and leap off out. We don’t want half-hearted any more, we don’t want sorry attempts at being normal, yet at the moment that is what we have to accept.

But we are nothing if not resilient. We may fold our arms for a moment or two and grimace at the thought of what could lie ahead, but then our hard-core, steely reserve kicks in and we make the best of things. Again. That is what we do and what we are good at. And deep down, most of us do enjoy the small things.

So here are a few things that help me find some comfort now that a different kind of Autumn beckons …

The moon – Dust off those binoculars and get ready for the eleventh full moon of 2020. October’s moon was dubbed the Hunter’s Moon because preparations for winter began around this time. The next full moon doesn’t grace our skies until October 31st, but each night I have been moon gazing; the position of the now waning crescent moon is low in the sky and has taken on an extraordinary golden colour. One can only look and marvel at this loyal companion.

The colours – Oh the beautiful colours and traditions of autumn. From walks among the crunchy fallen leaves, to harvest festivals with the wonderful, abundant fruits and vegetables, the golden colours envelop us. The pumpkins in particular, grace our window ledges, stacked in all their golden glory, waiting to delight us with their spooky glow at Halloween. In October, the sun sinks low in the sky, the light mellows and takes on a rich amber hue so loved by photographers. Perhaps it is because my birthday falls in October but it is one of my favourite times of the year. The cosiness is there without the bone chilling cold of deep winter. And one can have an enormous bowl of porridge for breakfast with a drizzle of cream knowing it will bolster you up for the day….

Then there is the wildlife to beguile us. The pheasants, scampering and squawking through the ploughed fields and the geese who seem to fly over our rooftops most nights in their amazing v – shaped formation. The last few nights I have been lulled to sleep by owls hooting. Sometimes it sounds like just one, other times perhaps two, hooting back and forth in their night-time conversations . Looking in my bird book, I learn that great horned owls begin setting up territories in October. Apparently, they mate for life but begin their courtship about now. Perhaps I am lucky enough to have a pair of great horned owls living nearby! Some say the sound of an owl hooting foretells something untoward but I like to think it is something rather more romantic.

Hello Comfort.

Autumn lovers wave goodbye to those pesky tee shirts that show the worst bits of your arms and the skimpy sandals the cover your feet in blisters. We can welcome fleeces, UGGs and an abundance or warm, soft clothing. We can drink hot chocolate and eat home-made apple pie whilst wrapped up in a cozy throw on the sofa. Or how about some hot apple cider? If you have never had mulled cider before why not give it a try? Just pour a bottle of your favourite apple cider into a pan, with 3 cloves, I cinnamon stick and a sliced orange. Gently heat for ten minutes so that it infuses, cool slightly, then pour into glasses. Tastes delicious and so reminiscent of the days when we could meander round Christmas markets.

I guess we all want a bit of decadence in our lives; to relive the joy of dancing, and have a bit of a knees up from time to time. We can’t have that just now but we can dream of good times that will come again. Perhaps until then we can adopt a sort of sanguine resignation to the latest restrictions, look after ourselves and our mental health, and toast ourselves with a glass of cider.

Mists and Mellow Fruitfulness – facing a different Autumn…

Revisiting childhood memories and embracing the seasons of life….

Last Sunday morning I lay in bed listening to the morning service on the radio. It was celebrating the Harvest Festival. I heard a recording of a choir singing ‘We plough the Fields and Scatter’, and the years rolled back. I remember as a young child standing in Egloshayle church in Wadebridge, Cornwall, singing the same hymn and listening to my Father’s deep and harmonious voice singing along beside me. I remember that feeling of being in complete awe of my Dad – and the feeling of being in the presence of something far bigger than me. From the corners of the softly lit church came a feeling of unworldliness and reverence which was palpable even to me as a small child. The brass gleamed, and the soft light from the windows fell on the altar steps, where banks of fruits and vegetables were stacked. Every window ledge too, was covered with bounty so freely given. The air was full of the earthy smell of fresh produce and the sweetness of hay. Everything felt just as it should be.

There is something very comforting about familiarity – the festivals which come every year with the changing of the seasons, the pumpkins appearing in the shops and even the way we might complain about the first splashes of Christmas advertising; the way we sigh as we close the curtains a little earlier each evening, just as our mother’s did before us. Perhaps we need the comfort of this more than ever now. By focusing on the familiar , embracing the changing seasons and following the well-loved traditions, even on a smaller scale than we are used to, we can bask in some normality and forget about the Coronavirus for a while.

This year has been hard for us all in so many ways. And still we feel uncertainty lurking around every corner. We still have challenges to come. Yet in March, I remember us going for our daily walk during lockdown. It was so important to get outside and clear our minds. Walking the quiet, usually traffic- choked streets we could breathe the fresh, sweet air and embrace the silence around us. We could hear the birdsong – we could cling to the glimmer of new beginnings. Even as the traffic increases again, my attention is now sharpened to the complexity, diversity and sheer abundance of creation in this unruly, chaotic time.

No matter how we, on this planet, try and mess up the environment with our over consumerism, our over use and waste of resources , nature remains on our side. Nature is forgiving and we need to hold on to that , especially now. Walking out this morning, we picked a handful of blackberries from the hedgerow and collected some fallen apples to cook up for supper. Such a small example of how nature provides and shows us abundance and gives us simple delights and reasons to be grateful.

We all have different ways of coping and also not coping with the world – of dealing with worries and facing uncertain futures. I have had some days where worries about issues in my own world have chipped away at the strong exterior I try to present to the world and those I love and the defences crumble. But I have faith that those I love will understand. We all comfort each other at times like these.

So these are the days when memories evoked from past times – the robust singing of a well-loved hymn or the earthy scent of the harvest gathered in, remind us of our roots, of a permanency and the order of things. They remind us that the seasons will still come and go – and that the world keeps on turning. The familiar can anchor us when we need it, as can following the small daily routines – as I have said so many times, it is the small things that are really the big things.

Times may be so different now to those days long ago when I stood as a little girl next to my dad in church. Technology surrounds us, the media bombards us the television beams into our home 24/7. There is hardly anything we can’t look up, order or comment on in one way or another. So much has changed and many things have moved forward in beneficial ways. Attitudes have changed and become more liberal. Diversity is embraced although there is still a long way to go. But I can still look back and remember the inherently good feeling of the memory and the reassurance of my dad’s hand on my shoulder. These things make us who we are and are never lost.

A few weeks ago I was wandering through a churchyard in a pretty village in Dorset. In the silent surroundings I stopped and looked at a headstone that caught my eye – the inscription was this:

Let the winter come and go – all shall be well again I know’

Something to encourage us all I think….