Monday, 25 October 2010

It's really autumn now

When you live somewhere like this the seasons really matter.  I thought I was always someone who noticed seasons.  When I lived and worked in cities I would take out my knee length boots and winter coat in November and pack away my summer stuff.  I would lament the days when I left for work in the dark and came home in the dark.  I would chase the light at weekends, walking in parks, kicking leaves, hating that time when the leaves lost their crispness and turned to sullen slipperiness.

But up here it is something else again.  Firstly autumn itself can be glorious in a way I have only glimpsed before, impossibly beautiful like the day in my header picture, so I have been quite won over by its beauty.  I have stopped treating each whirling leaf as a harbinger of doom and started living more firmly in the now.  Secondly there is a ludicrous amount of stuff to do in the garden.  I have never had so much garden as I do now, love it though I do, and gardening in autumn is always busy with planning and splitting and moving things.  Now I am drowning in things to do.  I hate gardening when it is cold and wet so I am rushing out when the sun shines and digging and weeding and cutting back and as yet totally failing to mulch anything because there is still so much going on.  Because of all this I know that I will get gardened out by early November and there is almost a relief in hanging up the tools, locking the shed and turning inside, knowing there is not much more that I can do.  I am not a winter gardener.  I will trot out looking for my snowdrops in January and watch for my early daffodils in February but mostly if it is cold I will be inside or, if outside, walking and walking as fast as I can manage.

So I like autumn far more than I ever did when I lived in cities but am, in the end, ready to stop and to see it go.  All seasons are more extreme up here.  Spring is more heartbreakingly beautiful.  A glorious summer day is more filled with green and the sound of bees.  Autumn is more brown and gold and luminous.  Winter is harder, colder, more alien.  When the wind thrashes the yew trees and rain streams down the windows or when snow makes the drive impassable and leaves the hens quivering inside the henhouse, refusing to come out, their water frozen solid every morning, it is easy to think of the generations of people who have lived here and struggled through another winter.  We have it easy with our central heating and our wood burning stove, our washing machine and our gas cooker.  But even so it is in winter that I feel closest to the people who have lived here before and most aware of how staggeringly hard their lives were.  I can barely begin to imagine it really but sometimes when the log basket needs filling and it takes ten minutes to kit myself up for outside there is the faintest of echoes of life when feeding the fire was fundamental.

To live well here in winter you have to turn inside and you need have things to do, real projects like the knitting and quilting which are two of my very new interests.  I never really had time to do either of them much before and there is a real satisfaction in finding that I can do these things, although the quilting is in such an early stage this may be famous last words.  Perhaps I should wait a bit in talking about that until I have worked out how to add the wadding and backing, both of which are still a bit murky in the execution.

You also have to have company.  I realise this is a bit rich coming after a blog about being all peopled out, but in winter you lose much of the accidental company that comes out of shopping and coming and going.  You lose the people coming to the holiday cottage except for those who actively like the hunkering down by the stove and the peace of winter.  You lose visits from friends as well who, not unreasonably, are much more inclined to visit when the sun is shining and the days are long.  Life shrinks a bit to the four walls and the fire and you need the energy of people coming and the house being full and the kitchen alive with food preparation and feasting.  I suppose that is why they invented Christmas.

I'm not ready for winter yet, too much still to do outside, not yet ready to fold away the golden days of autumn and adjust to shades of grey and white, but this time I think I am just a little more prepared.  I need to start squirrelling away against the cold.  I must start the production of herb jellies and the apple and cinnamon one which goes so well on toast.  The jars look like the colours of autumn on the shelves.  I shall start this week.

26 comments:

  1. I never appreciated winter until I moved to a mild climate - to a place where people plant winter pansies and primroses come up in February. Once here, I quickly realised that some time, no matter how short, without weeds was a good thing!

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  2. Beautiful post. A pleasure to read. Makes me sort of long for winter and a roaring fire. I think it's very true that in winter we can more easily identify with the privations of living in the past, of those who were here before us. Thanks for that insight.

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  3. My people had a cottage on the very top of the first hill on the Welsh side of Oswestry. Looking out was similar to your header but slightly lumpier. We always went up there for Christmas and it was spectacular. In the mornings the snow was often pink from the sunlight and the air was so pure...

    Goodness knows how, but Santa always managed to find us too.

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  4. I know just what you mean. Here in France Profund life is much more simple than South Wales. We have no central heating so Jim is in the barn cutting logs. He tries to cut more each day than we can expect to use in the two woodburners.
    I am dressed in layers of woolies and slipper boots. We sleep in an unheated bedroom and one has to brace oneself to put a foot out of bed.
    But we are not uncomfortable and it reminds me of the days when I was a child.
    I echo all you say about the intensity of the seasons in the country - we have enjoyed our months here and watched the changing countryside from March with delight although I am not anxious to experience the Avergne winter and we shall be setting off for home next week.

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  5. Oh yes Elizabeth - you have really welcomed the seasons in the country - you sound to have it exactly right. Our wood burner is now light every evening to boost the heat from the central heating and the Aga. I tend to leave the garden until the spring here - that way the birds get plenty of cover for scratching the soil for insects (we have a very active sparrow hawk here)- that's my excuse anyway.
    I posted the plant and seeds yesterday - looked you up on the map too - I would guess my son came quite near your house on his way through on Friday to his week in Borth. He could have dropped them off. Do hope they grow - if not let me know and I'll send more in April.

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  6. Beautiful descriptions Elizabeth. I think the autumn is one of my favourite seasons here as the colours are so vivid in autumn. In the city I just remember the grey gloominess of the season but here it is alive with orange and red. I do need to go out and do the garden, I get very guilty of giving up far too early...

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  7. You'll know how to get through the winter the right way. you have the right attitude and realistic expectations. The quilting project is also excellent to have under hand. And people, yes, make sure you have them come and visit. I'm sure it is beautiful there in the winter as well and that your company is enjoyable.

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  8. Pondside - we are half an half here. We do have winter pansies and early primroses but we do have real cold too!
    James - thank you. What a wonderful comment.
    Cro - you can't have been far from us. Oswestry is about 35 mins away! We are just a little farther into Wales. And yes to the sun and the light and the snow.
    Rosie - I can imagine the life in France you describe and it is in some ways very like it is up here. We have often commented on how our house reminds us of our childhood! Your place sounds beautiful.
    Weaver - I do a bit of both leaving and cutting back. There is so much wild here that 90% stays wild and uncut until the spring. I do cut back the cottage garden for visitors and our side garden which we see from the kitchen. it is a tiny portion but it makes it look thought about!

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  9. Beautifully put Elizabeth. As is often the case, I wish I had written this because it sums up many of my own disjointed thoughts and feelings.

    Since moving to West Cumbria we too notice the seasons more, life is affected and influenced by the weather to a far greater level than for town-dwellers, there is a feeling of connection to previous generations, recognition of how life was not so long ago.

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  10. I love the intensity of the seasons here. We travelled in Asia for a year and, whilst it was a fantastic trip for many reasons, we both really missed the diversity of our weather! No crisp autumn mornings with crunchy leaves to be kicked through. No wood burner to cosy up to when the weather is howling outside. No icy, snowy mornings where the sky is sharp clear blue and you can see your breath crystalise...... we came home!

    I fully understand your introverted extrovert post too. I am similar - I love being around people in my work, but need space and quiet for me so that I don't get 'over-peopled'!

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  11. Nora - it is beautiful in the winter but there is no doubt life is harder! With luck the quilting will keep me occupied and am already arranging to bring in the company.
    Bilbo - ah I am glad you feel the connection with the past thing too. Perhaps it is in part because our forebears were much closer to the seasons that we think about them when our lives move us closer too.
    Nutty Gnome - I don't think I would like a seasonless life at all. I lived in New Zealand for a bit and sometimes think it has the perfect climate - proper seasons but more summer than winter and a brightness even in winter that we don't get very often here.

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  12. Yes, the lives that came before... they always echo in the changing of the seasons, don't they? And it is wonderful to remember and appreciate the hardships they faced, as well as the joys that the pampered city folk will never know.

    To live in the moment is one of the more difficult things to do, yet the most rewarding for those that can manage it.

    Now, where did I leave that crochet hook?

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  13. Another beautiful post. I'm another lover of autumn but these days so much of my life is lived indoors; so much even at this desk, but the country is all around and in October the wind gets up and lashes the rain against the house so that, more than the rain keeps you indoors. But thanks for reminding me of all that I have to do yet in my little garden!

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  14. Beautiful post - and picture! I think I was near you last Sunday - went for a walk up Moel Famau the back way from Pentre... you can't be far from there? Freezing and very muddy but a bright clear day.

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  15. Elizabeth, this was just what I needed tonight. I have been so wrapped up what seems like an unreal, artificial world (the internet, in case you're wondering) that I was beginning to feel..I don't know...disconnected. Your lovely, lovely post brought me back and plugged me in again. I feel much better now and might even dream about your garden and your chickens.

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  16. Elizabeth, this was just what I needed tonight. I have been so wrapped up what seems like an unreal, artificial world (the internet, in case you're wondering) that I was beginning to feel..I don't know...disconnected. Your lovely, lovely post brought me back and plugged me in again. I feel much better now and might even dream about your garden and your chickens.

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  17. Karen - thank you.
    Marcheline - I love that line of yours "echo in the changing seasons".
    Fennie - we have wind and rain outside now. The wind is from the south tonight and the house is protected from the prevailing wind from the northwest so we always notice when we get a southerly.
    Brokenbiro - you were very close at Moel Famau, just five or six miles away! If you walk from there over Moel Arthur and Penycloddiau you look down on our house! Come amd say hi if you are so near again.
    Deborah - what a very lovely comment. I am glad you feel better. Perhaps we all need to step away from the laptop from time to time!

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  18. I am near Criccieth this week, at the Ty Newydd writing centre, and I feel the sense of autumn around us. My drive through Wales on Monday was magnificent - I love the autumn winds too.

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  19. Lovely, thoughtful post Elizabeth.

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  20. What a beautiful post, my new friend. I really love that you said things that echo my own feelings here in Michigan. Since we moved to the farm, we notice and enjoy the seasons much more, and yes, they seem more extreme. I also think of how I'm connected with previous generations, at the farm here which is 100 years old, and also to the centuries before. Being closer to the earth is a beautiful thing. I'm not as active as you are outdoors, but you inspire me to be.

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  21. What an interesting post - and the last one too. I hanker to retire to the country - and yet, and yet, I've never really been in the country in the winter and wonder if it would be too difficult for the older us. And then there's the thing about the children: I want to be near them. Not that they're terrribly likely to be in the same place as each other in the future.

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  22. Very thoughtful and well written
    and beautiful.

    Marsha

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  23. What a beautiful post - much like the photo on your header... You live in a little piece of paradise..! Funny, too, I have the picture of a swallow tattooed on my ankle. I know - not that significant, many people might... But to me, at this particular moment, it struck me as full of meaning. So glad to have visited here this morning while I drink my tea. Thank you.

    warmly,
    -maria

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  24. Mark - hadn't heard of this writing centre and have pricked up my ears. Off to investigate!
    Marianne - Hi! good to see you again and thank you. Hope things are well with you.
    Ruth - I am very glad to have met you. Must make sure I can find you again in the whirl of cyberspace!
    Isabelle - the retiring to the countryside thing is tricky. It is a marvellous thing to live in the country and our adult children like it too (with their city lives it is exotic) so they come. They are not near but then they wouldn't be near if we lived in the city!
    Marsha - thank you. I am glad you liked it and pleased to meet you!
    Maria - funny these moments of synchronicity! Sometimes there is just a jolt of connection. I am delighted you found your way here.

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  25. The deprivations of November and December are definitely why they invented Christmas . . . and those wonderful pagan celebrations that came before it. So MANY things resonated with me in this beautiful, beautiful post. I, too, have been trying to love the falling leaves and not treat them as "harbingers of doom."
    I have found it very difficult to keep up with blogging these past warm weather months; so maybe a return to online friends will be one of winter's compensations.

    Again, SUCH a satisfying read . . . and it made me want to move into deeper countryside, as opposed to the city move I've been plotting.

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