Remaking The Seasons

Charting the year’s progress through seasonal celebrations is comforting, but can it eclipse the wondrous yet understated transformations taking place each day outside our back doors?

Autumn is a big word, a catch-all for subtly shifting seasonal changes. On 2 September this year, a colleague remarked that it was nearly Christmas. Behind this provocatively jovial comment is a reductive modern mindset which I have a tendency to fall into if I spend too much time inside. Condensing the year into a parade of seasonal celebrations involves turning away from a reading of the year which delights in its rich, heterogenous and ever-changing beauty.

So autumn is gentle, hearty and comforting. It arrives almost imperceptibly; there’s a morning coolness, the slight weight of dew in the air, but I can still sit outside writing at 6.30am in my pyjamas, the crocs haven’t yet disappeared into the loft and the plastic croquet set and buckets still adorn the lawn. I can hear strident geese calling behind the murmur of tits and soft sub-song of a hidden robin in the birch tree. Elsewhere the geese are massing ready for wetland reunions, the knot are beginning their winter murmurations which we caught, enchanted, in Norfolk last week and the hirundines have already deserted our autumn shores.

My garden hasn’t shed its summer garments yet; the scented pelargoniums still line the paving, zinnia, dahlia and cosmos still blaze and the sweet peas are ready for cutting again. But there are shifts – I can see the blueberry foliage burnishing slowly in the fruit cage, the acer tips are reddening and the quinces swelling. The waning of one phase allows the waxing of the new and this is surely one of the joys of autumn. In spring, as the crisp, pale winter days reluctantly give way to warmth and life, I rarely feel the pull in both directions – I’m too impatient for dawn warbling, primroses by the writing bench and the first tentative sowings. But autumn gently mixes memories of long summer days with the incipient excitement of allotment soups, warm jars of quince and crab apple jelly, woollen jumpers and stout walking boots, chilli harvests, hazelnuts, falling leaves and bonfires on darkening evenings. Each week the temperature, the colours and the atmosphere in the garden and the countryside changes and to appreciate these shifts is to engage with the natural world in all its diversity and richness.

As a child, each yearly remaking of the seasons denoted by the behaviour of familiar plants and animals, formed the backbone to my temporal self: a secure calendar against which I measured time and my progress through it. Nowadays this is no longer always the case as climate change establishes new rhythms as yet unknown, but not unfelt. I find these changes deeply unsettling. Apple blossom in August, snowdrops in December or even, a couple of years ago, a small tortoiseshell butterfly drifting past the fairylights on Christmas Day might be thought seasonal treats, but in reality, they are troubling abberations, early signs of more significant changes to come.

Unless we understand the subtle progression of the seasons, unless we appreciate autumn as something more than the beginning of a new school year, Hallowe’en and Bonfire night amidst the falling leaves, we will lose track of our natural rhythms and the opportunity to be inspired by each season as it unfolds, and we will miss the profound changes taking place both naturally and unnaturally outside our backdoors. There’s a physical calender in the garden, through the fields and along the hedgerows. Seasons are changing slowly, miraculously, whether we notice them or not. They are there to be appreciated, to teach, warn and inspire, and we should celebrate that.

 

14 thoughts on “Remaking The Seasons

  1. Cathy Coulthard says:

    I like the way the smell of the air changes after the equinox; reminds me of growing up in Devon, and how the moors smelled different as the weather got wetter;-)

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    • dogwooddays says:

      Yes, that’s interesting – I stopped on the way to school this morning with my train of small people and we all took a deep breath – you could smell the damp leaves and soil. Amazing how much more you notice when you take deeper breaths!

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  2. Catherine Wakely says:

    I’ve been really enjoying the start of autumn this year. The colours and the smells. The twins are old enough now to learn about fallen leaves and we had a wonderful time on the way home from school this morning jumping in puddles. There’s something special about sharing the exciting autumnal things with them for the first time 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Louisa (@LouisaInsideOut) says:

    Beautifully written post. For me this year autumn seems to have come quite suddenly, it was summer one day and a distinct autumn the next. I shall try and pay more attention to my surroundings and notice the changes as we progress towards winter. #mmbc

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    • dogwooddays says:

      Thank you, that’s really kind. It’s so easy to let the subtle external changes pass us by, isn’t it? But I find reconnecting with nature a little every day helps me with resilience and happiness in the world. Have a great week 😊

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  4. Jayne (@SMABLblog) says:

    What a beautifully written post! I love taking note of the changes that occur throughout the seasons. It can so easily be taken for granted which really is quite a shame.

    Thanks so much for sharing with #MMBC. Have a lovely weekend and hopefully see you next week x

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    • dogwooddays says:

      Thank you Jayne. I agree – just a quick moment every day or two to appreciate what’s happening outside the back door helps us connect with nature and creates small moments of joy 😊 Enjoy your weekend!

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