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.