We’re nearing the end of yet another eventful year. Autumn is a good time for walking in woods, for remembering and reflecting. It’s a time for looking forward, not just for looking back. A time for looking for the positive, for being hopeful. For some the autumn is a sad time – they look on the fallen leaves and the flowers dying, going to seed and find that depressing. Much better to think of the new growth that will come in the spring. Much better to love the autumn colours, admire the silhouettes of the bare branches, the delicate tracery of the finer branches that stand out against the blue sky.
A recent walk through one of the nearby woods, reminded me of the advice given by a dear friend many years ago –
Being a Willow i.m. of HW
You always told students to be a willow not an oak
to play a violin you need willow flexibility not solid rigidity of an oak
bend as you bow let music flow through you
remember those words that also ring true weather life’s storms
not by putting down stubborn roots like those of an ancient oak
be like willows- bend then you can find strength and survive
As the days shorten, we have fewer days when there’s time for an evening walk. It is a time of year when we do tend to spend time looking back as well as planning for the future. It’s the time of year when many families are facing big changes as their children leave home to go away to study. It’s many years since ours were that age but we know of a number of friends and relatives who are adjusting to major life changes.
Looking out one September Morning
The flock follows its bellwether
towards the top of the hill.
Squadrons of swallows, drawn
by the sheep’s company of flies,
dive around them as they graze
on the patchwork of dry ochre
grasses and others, softer green.
Autumn colours appear
early this year; haws already
show among hedgerows.
We have our own bellwethers;
different ones for different times.
One in our teens is supplanted as
we mature, have other needs, but
there’s usually one who leads, inspires.
Autumn – always a time for reflection,
a time for change, when young
leave the nest, leave parents who now
remember their own youth, wonder too
how they’ll adjust to that looming void.
Sappy greens of a hopeful spring
have long since been replaced by
ageing sombre shades; lawns
wear an early layer of windblown
leaves weighted by heavy rain.
Clouds gather, there’s a sense
of uncertain times, of loss.
Unknown paths yet to be trod,
ties to be loosened, to let go,
for all to be ready to accept, to grow
In between aerial forays,
swallows line up on wires,
prepare for long distant flights;
parents leaving their young
to rely on the GPS in DNA.
This has been an autumn that will be remembered not only for the effects of Covid’s lingering presence, but also for the many people who have have been left in limbo waiting for either a diagnosis or treatment. It seems that all over the country people are waiting weeks for even a telephone appointment – seeing a doctor face to face is a rare event.
There is a feeling of powerlessness – shoulders are shrugged and ‘what can you do about it- nothing – that’s the way things are these days.’ words of resignation underline the real fear and depression that is bubbling under the surface.
Just how many lives will be lost indirectly during the aftermath and possibly the ongoing consequences of other viruses – we can only guess.
It’s hard for folk to stay positive when there seems to be little or no improvement in the situation. Hard for those in pain uncertain what the future holds for them – not knowing is somehow worse than knowing what it is that you have to face up to. The unknown and uncertainty can be far more disturbing than the known.
How can people get through times like this? Some will prepare themselves for the worst and hope that they’ll be pleasantly surprised if things turn out to be better. Perhaps that famous quotation from Julian of Nowrwich is a good one to hold onto
“And all will be well, all manner of things shall be well”
LIfe can be tough at times and we can never know what lies ahead of us. There is a lot to be said for living for ‘the now’ and making the most of every day, every hour, every minute we have and finding what joy we can.
In a world where everything and everybody seems to be driven to move at an often frenetic pace, we are fortunate if we are blessed with time to be still, time to walk among the trees and by the sea.
At this time of year, and today we’ve reached the autumn equinox, swallows are gathering on wires ready to embark on their journey back to warmer climes. The leaves are begining to turn, we enjoy the warmth of the autumn sun, gather hazel nuts from the hedgerows and consider the prospect of making an elderberry cordial.
The days are getting noticeably shorter and the chances of walks in the evenings diminish, so we have to make the most of the daytime hours. Today we watched a pair of rutting deer as we walked across fields, to woodland along an old track. Here we could sense the ghosts of horse-drawn carriages. The soft light filtered through the branches and the only sounds came from the waves washing on the beach down below us.
This is when we need to live for the moment, absorb, remember and soak up the peacefulness that counteracts the horrors of our world.
This week we saw the first geese of the season – three skeins heading inland to feed during the day before returning to the bay in the evening. The sound of geese calling is such an evocative, almost primeval, cry that it stirs something deep inside. It’s a sound that people have heard for centuries. A sound unchanged by modern civilisation.
As weeks go by, we’ll gradually see more and more geese as they arrive here for the winter. One of the wonders of this time of year.
This evening, the sky over the hills had that soft glow that makes this such a special time – fiery autumn leaves back lit by low sunlight and indoors the warm glow from a blazing log fire.