As the leaves begin to drift and decay, so too do my thoughts. Here I am once again, in stout wellies and overcoat, tending to the damp and depleted garden of my boggy autumn mind. Here comes the dwindling of daylight and the slow creep of dormancy; the building weight of mud clinging to the heavy boots of my thoughts.
I submerge a little further with every sodden step, my energy sinking deeper into my roots. My flowers have blackened, my stems have begun to sag, and the instinct to grow has retreated like sap. I want only to cover myself in protective mulch and lie dormant till spring.
Goodbye to the billowy-blond tresses of the long-haired meadow grasses; to whiskery ripples of barley, like green silk in the summer breeze. Goodbye to nodding froths of cow parsley, and to baked earth cracked like dragon-hide underfoot. Goodbye to freshly-mown lawns and bare feet on sun-warmed stone.
I’ve always dreaded the onset of winter. Not just its heavy depths, but the febrile brightness of Christmas too – highlighting every splinter and schism of the family in its unforgiving glare. As the summer tides retreat my hopes seep quietly out to sea, exposing the familiar mud-flats of melancholy that lay beneath.
‘What’s wrong with me?’ I rail, ‘Why can’t I feel buoyant and light?’
As if the trees could pick up their fallen leaves again, or the bees pop back out to pollinate! Would I scold my tomato plants for their withered October fruit or berate my hanging baskets for their decomposing blooms? No, I’d put them in a greenhouse and tuck them in for the night! Just as the trees shed their summer bounty and the dahlias blacken and slump, so my body responds to the whisper of the seasons; the call to rest and hibernate.
However much it feels like an ending, it’s simply another revolution of nature’s wheels; the patient coiling and loading of life’s new springs. Our energies aren’t the straight lines of productivity we so stubbornly demand. Like morning mists on a mountain, they slowly gather, circle, and rise.
The mind, too, is just another deciduous shrub on the scree-slopes of life. But as the winter approaches and the sun begins to ebb, we can still bathe our minds with our inner light. And so I turn my thoughts to the quiet joys instead; to the twinkles of fairy-lights and the smoky whispers of bonfires on cold nights; to the womb-like cocoon of a duck-down duvet, and the bloom of my breath in the cold air beyond; to drizzle-jewelled spiderwebs and crunchy leaves underfoot; to steaming mulled-wine and the crackling hum of burning logs. And to that most glittery of stipples – the hoarfrost of the night – painting the ordinary and overlooked with tiny crystals of delight.
And as I drive home, I spot a man playing the violin on a bench outside the botanic gardens, almost hidden behind a bed of dying wildflowers. Just a few metres before him watches his only audience member: one little squirrel nibbling a nut on its haunches.
The irresistibly daft charm of life’s reassuring wink!
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