Snowdrops and camellias are two of my favourite flowers.
Snowdrops, because they’re tiny pearls of light in the big midwinter dark – they set the ground on fire with the promise of spring. Camellias, because they’re the roses of winter – magical flowerfalls of colour sitting alongside the steely skeletons of trees.
Add a splash of glittering sunshine into the mix?
Well, that right there is a recipe for happiness and a heavy January heart made light.
The last few weeks, I’ve been going stir, stir, stir crazy – stuck between going down with a cold that hijacked my entire body and being busy at work and being busy with random life stuff and the weather being unbelievably rubbish. But on Monday – finally *cries melodramatically* – I was able to get out and enjoy some autumn sunshine in the grounds of a local National Trust property.
In one of the outbuildings of the property, there was a pretty display with the question: what does autumn mean to you? and little paper leaves for people to write their answers on.
I stood in front of the display for a good couple of minutes – tapping a mini pencil against my chin, rolling a paper leaf backwards and forwards between my fingers – and thought very seriously (seriously over thought) what does autumn mean to me?
A million and one clichés came to my mind, but, dammit, I wanted something original to write, so I waited a little longer.
Tapping, rolling. Tapping, rolling.
Apple crumble soaked in cream and sitting in front of the woodburner and too much night and not enough day and Bailey’s hot chocolate and oh my goodness golly gosh Christmas is coming and oh my goodness golly gosh my car’s MOT and ah god holy crap will it actually pass its MOT and ah god holy crap how much will it end up costing and wait you’re supposed to be thinking about autumn. *takes a deep breath* Chestnuts roasted on an open fire (ahem, in a microwave) and gold, grey, sepia and I LOVE SCARVES and baking yummy food and eating too much food and I REALLY LOVE SCARVES and making plans for the New Year and fighting off the blues.
I panicked about how embarrassingly uncool and serious I was being and then double panicked because there were about to be people to witness my uncool seriousness, so I gave up trying to be original and clever and smug and just scribbled something about walking and crunchy, golden leaves, and tied it up to the display. I took a quick look at some of the others as I did. They all made me smile, but one in particular caught my eye.
Colourful and moon lit.
(I’m guessing it was written by a child, so I’m more than happy to ignore the spelling/grammar issues.)
Colourful and moon lit, I mused all philosophically as I shuffled back out into the sunshine, trying to look cool and unserious and like I hadn’t just spent five whole minutes thinking about what autumn meant to me as I passed the other walkers, that is exactly what autumn is.
It is full of colour. Whether it’s the glittering golds and sulky silvers of nature, or the garish, flashing rainbows of mankind, there is colour everywhere at this time of year. Sometimes you have to look a little harder, sometimes it’s literally fifty shades of grey (clouds, clouds everywhere), but there’s always colour lurking somewhere. And although autumn is also full of darkness, that darkness is made a little lighter, a little more bearable, by the moon. Sometimes that moonlight is brighter than bright, sometimes it’s fainter than faint – but it is always there.
Four words turned three weeks of stir crazy on its head.
I hope all your autumns are full of colour and moonlight.
It’s only a few more days until winter is officially over here, and I am so, so ready to say goodbye to it. Readier than I have ever been. I’ve tried to embrace the last few months, tried to get on board with the constant tingle of cold gnawing at my bones. I’ve tried to appreciate sludgy snow, biting winds, silver grey skies, short sharp days, and spattering rain; tried to embrace my inner ice queen. I have so, so tried. Really and truly.
But my heart wants spring now, right this very minute, more than it has ever wanted spring before.
I want blooming flowers and zesty bright greens. I want long, long days and I want evenings spent laughing in slowly, gently, softly dying light. I want to lounge in warm, golden sunshine with a book, blossom tumbling from the trees, bees humming through the air. I want strawberries that are fresh and juicy and sweet. I want floaty dresses and flip flops. I even want SPF 50 sunscreen.
There’s just the matter of those tricksy few more days to get through.
I’ll be spending them how I’ve tried to spend the rest of winter: walking off the cold, walking off the grey, walking off the cabin fever.
And, of course, there’ll be the odd bit of reading thrown in too.
If you look too long into the green the green will eat you up. It will wind its way around your heart and its splintered roots will lodge inside your bones. Underneath your skull, a whole forest will unfurl and make your thoughts a muddle. You’ll try to leave it, try to live beyond it, but you’ll find your soul ensnared, find it calling you back, pulling you back, painting your blood and staining you through.
At 36 pages, Holloway by Robert Macfarlane isn’t the longest read on the planet, but it was one of the nicest reading experiences I’ve had in a long time.
It’s teeny-tiny and delicate and cherishable, something to be picked up and reread every now and then. Something to get lost in for ten minutes. Something ‘within which ghosts softly flock’. It’s kind of like a prayer book – one where God is south Dorset (biased? me? *waves hand dismissively but guiltily*), gnarly knotted trees, sunken many-lives-haunted pathways, friendship, and quiet adventure.
There’s something calming about going for a walk – heading off down lanes and paths and tracks, just letting your feet lead the way. It always makes my head clearer and my heart lighter.
A few weeks ago, after Sunday lunch, my mum and I headed out for a walk along the banks of our local river. It’s a good place to natter/confide/joke/argue/not say anything at all, and I’ve walked the paths there so many times for so long I’m sure they’ve actually moulded the shape of my feet.
It wasn’t very busy – the clouds were very grey and the ground was still sticky from weeks of rain – but there were a few other families out for a Sunday afternoon stroll.
At one point we passed a little family. The parents were timidly picking out a route as far from the mud as possible (which wasn’t that possible) while their little girl was striding ahead through the puddles and marshy ground.
The mum said she thought they should go back, and the dad didn’t look too keen to go any further either. But the little girl wanted to carry on and refused to budge.
The mum said it was too muddy, the little girl said she wanted to get muddier.
*high-five for little girl*
Me and my mum carried on our way. When we snuck a glance over our shoulders further along the path the little family were nowhere to be seen.
Obviously there was no more getting muddier for the girl.
But it got me thinking – isn’t it funny how children can be braver than grown ups? They look at a muddy field and want to keep walking, keep striding forwards, keep getting muddier.
Because who cares about a bit of mud?
I want to be more like that little girl in my everyday life. I want to be more adventurous and less worried/nervous/afraid. Even if it’s just in small ways that seem insignificant. Small things add up.
If I fail, at least I tried. If I fall flat on my face, I can get back up. If I make a mistake, I can learn. If people point at me and laugh at me, I can get over it and move on even though it might (will) hurt.
So thank you, little girl. You’ve inspired this bigger girl.
Days slowly getting longer. Brave flowers peeping up out of the cool ground. Promising warmth in golden sunshine.
It’s a happy mix of the perks of winter – the cosy evenings in front of the fire, a pair of cold hands kept warm by a mug of hot chocolate, rosy red cheeks from frosty air – whilst knowing that spring and summer, with all their greenness and sunniness and loveliness, are on the way.
A late winter magic.
I try to spend as much time as possible outside at this point in the year, soaking in some much needed sun rays and enjoying all the bursts of bright colour in amongst the greens and browns.