Into the darkness

I am slipping between seasons.

I can sense the afterglow of summer; flowers are blooming, the sun is still warm on my face. Then in another moment I am tumbling towards winter.

The darkness draws me forward.

There is still time after work to dodge the rain showers and squeeze in a walk to the estuary, yet by the time I have finished my evening meal there is blackness outside the window.

Winter guests are arriving along with the first frosts. The geese are back and countless small birds enliven the garden with their flittering flocks. I’m still waiting for a glimpse of redwing, or fieldfare. Tasty berries await their return.

Sometimes it’s still just about warm enough to take my cup of tea to the bench in the front garden, but I spend less time there now.

Of course, there is still work to do outside, weeding and pruning and such, which will build up body heat and make time spent outside feel good. But the mooching, the gazing, the simply being, the doing nothing, the outdoor tai chi practice; the season for all that is ebbing away.

And so the true owners of the garden come to the fore. The blackbirds, robins, wrens, dunnocks, tits, goldcrests, song thrushes, the mice and voles, the squirrels, the spiders and slugs, snails and countless invertebrates. All those beings who spend the entire of the day and the night outside, however cold or wet or grey it gets.

I watch a blackbird probing the lawn for insects and I suddenly realise that the garden belongs to all of them, not to me. They depend on it for survival, I just appear outside occasionally and they watch me with caution until I am gone.

The darkness approaches with relentless speed.

I fight it, just like every year. I wish it wasn’t happening. I dread the clocks changing, darkness before I even leave the office.

I’m not sure when this started. As a child winter and dark evenings just happened, that was just how life was. It didn’t bother me at all.

The winter started with our annual end of October half term Lake District family holiday, an old cottage with no central heating, roasting the chestnuts that we collected in the woods over the open fire, cold bedrooms, huddling under the sheets with hot water bottles. Probably my favourite holiday of the year. Back home, the house was usually warm, and the dark months were punctuated by brightness: Halloween, bonfire night, Christmas.

And I’ve been wondering when I learned to dislike the darkness that comes with winter, the short days, the endless grey and the damp cold.

A run of grey days can hang over me like a bad mood. Then, the sun comes out and everything is OK. Colours come to life. The world around me sparkles. This is perhaps not a good attitude to have developed given that I live in rainy, grey, beautiful north west England.

And yet. Every year there comes a point when I stop fighting the seasons, when I start to see the long dark evenings as something to treasure.

A space.

Often, there is not much to do. The working day is over. There are no little jobs to do in the garden, because it’s dark outside. I read. I binge watch tv programmes.

A little idea arrives in my head, about seasons and the approaching darkness. I go outside and reacquaint myself with the stars. Back inside it’s warm. I sit down and I start writing.

We are just at the beginning. There are months of this creative, enveloping darkness ahead. I could choose to welcome it.


What do dark evenings and approaching winter mean to you?


Poems to download

I’ve been feeling a little frazzled today; working, preparing for house guests who arrive tomorrow and getting ready to go on a tai chi workshop next Wednesday in the US. All good things, just they have given me a rather long to-do list!

So, I spent some time reading old blog posts instead, turning to some relaxing poems to calm me down.

And then I decided to quickly turn them into a little ebook, for you to download.

Poems to bring a little calm and relaxation to your day.

And now I’m off to do some tai chi in the garden.

Enjoy

x

Rock rose

Ephemeral beauty,

tomorrow just

a pile of petals.


I love these pink rock rose flowers. In the morning they are closed and covered in dewdrops. As the day warms up they open and face the sun. By evening the petals are starting to fall and by the following morning petals lie like crumpled pink tissue paper on the soil. Luckily there are plenty more flowers waiting to open.

Spring in the garden

I plant seeds and tidy the greenhouse

as three slow worms bask peacefully

in the sun.


I love slow worms, and it makes me so happy to know that I share my garden with them. They look like little copper coloured snakes, but are actually legless lizards. One lives in the raspberry bed, one in a hole in the patio and one in the wall near the woodshed. There are probably more, I just haven’t spotted them yet.

Rough edges

My garden,

like much of my life,

a little scruffy,

a little rough around the edges,

beautiful to my eyes

but perhaps not everyone’s

cup of tea.

Today I watched

a queen red-tailed bumblebee

dusted in golden pollen

feasting on a dandelion,

mother of next summer’s bees

sustained by my laziness,

my dislike of weeding.

Perfection may ensnare us

but it is a sterile thing,

there is treasure

to be found

in the wild,

in the untamed,

at the rough edges of life.

I really should be working

The sun streams onto my desk

distracting me with an open invitation.

I wander outside into the crisp

freshness of September

(I really should be working)

air cool, sun warm,

what a delicious combination.

I stroll, and admire the flowers.

This year’s robins practice their trills

and chase each other around the garden

(I should be working, really)

Dewy cobwebs sparkle.

The Chinese lanterns glow

like orange setting suns.

(Should I really be working?)

I have all the time in the world

to work,

long years of it left,

but this one moment of early autumn,

this particular combination of weather

and flowers and birdsong

will never happen again in

exactly the same way.

So I savour it.