Tag Archives: autumn

Ticking On

Recently, I had a birthday. Not a significant one (insofar as anything as ephemeral as a day can ever be significant – but you know what I mean); it was just another day, here one moment and gone the next. I’m lucky insofar as I was born at my favourite time of year (I wonder if the two are connected? Hmm) and I love these days and weeks of change, when autumn becomes winter, leaves begin to brown and fall, and the days grow short. There are those who believe that the lack of light during the darker months can lead to mental health problems and depression – a condition called S.A.D., or Seasonal Affective Disorder – and, while believing absolutely that such a condition exists and can be hugely debilitating, sometimes I feel like I have its exact opposite.

Long summer days make me anxious. The encroaching cold darkness of winter, however? That I love. Does it make me odd? Well. Maybe a little.

A few days ago, I bundled the baby up and out we went for a walk, a lung-and-leg-stretcher, and it was beautiful. I took a few photos of our surroundings, because I thought the trees looked particularly pretty. Of course, the version I managed to capture didn’t do justice to the light-filled, colourful mess that appeared before me in real life; it serves to remind me, though, of a moment that has now passed and will never be experienced again. The baby will never be exactly that age again. Neither will I. In fact my age differed by a whole digit when these photos were taken. This day will never be lived again.

This season – the one we’re starting into – will only happen once.

Time ticks on. Over the past few weeks the world has become a darker place for some, including me. I am dismayed by the turn world politics has taken into a harsher, colder regime, and I am fearful for the future. Every generation has something which scares it: for me, as a child, it was the threat of nuclear war. It seemed nebulous from my perspective, but from my parents’, it must have been horrifying. My father remembers a vivid dream he once had, in which he roused the whole house, urging my mother to get us children dressed and ready to run for the hills, because the ‘enemy’ was coming. The bomb had been dropped. The tanks were rolling up our street.

Of course, it was only happening inside his mind. But, thirty years later, he still remembers it.

Thirty years have passed, and now I am the parent. Now, I am the one who has a child to dress and care for and who has to worry about the world changing dangerously out of my control, and who doesn’t know how to keep this child safe in the face of what seems like an inescapable darkness. So I walk, my baby safe in a sturdy pram, wrapped in blankets and muffled in a hat, tiny fingers pointing and a little voice calling ‘Birdie! Tree! Wow!’ and I tell myself: time ticks on. This day will pass, and the next, and the one after that. With luck, time will bring me and my child with it, twigs in the flood.

When my child is the age I am now, another threat will be facing the world. Another darkness will be enveloping us. My child may have children by then; I may be living, or I may not be. Either way, the dark seasons will keep returning.

Time will keep ticking on.

The leaves will keep turning brown, and falling, and regenerating the soil.

Days will shorten. Then, they will grow long again, only to grow short once more.

And all we can do is keep our children safe, remember that love is stronger than anything – including death – and that all will pass into history one day, including the tyrants and despots who sell our future for profit, who bluster and blast their way into power simply for the thrill of being there, and who gamble with all our lives.

I hope things will turn out for the best. I hope the world I hand to my child will be better than the one my parents worked to hand to me. I hope, and time ticks on, and that is all anyone can do.

canal-bank1

Autumnal Walk Photo credit: S.J. O’Hart

 

 

The Kisses of Autumn

This morning is the first I’ve noticed where there’s a real tinge of autumn in the air. It’s cool and crisp, and spiderwebs are shining in the early light, and the sky is cloudless blue. The trees at the end of our garden are rich with leaves on the turn. It’s no wonder that this is my favourite time of year. I’m thinking towards the falling into winter, the gradual darkening and slowing down of life, and it’s making me grateful for the light and brightness that this summer still holds.

It’s also making me think towards the future. I’ve been asked to take part in a critiquing group, which is very exciting, and can only help to hone my own powers as a story-dissector; it will also be a huge chance for me to learn from others, people who are further down the road than I am. It’s a little scary to know I’m going to have to place my own work beneath their scrutiny, but that seems to be the name of the game for me, this past while: getting over, again, my fear of being read. It’s an old and primal fear, one which beset me awfully at the beginning of my attempts to be a writer and which took extreme willpower to overcome. I managed it then, and I hope I can manage it now, too.

Setting sail... Photo Credit: fiddleoak via Compfight cc

Setting sail…
Photo Credit: fiddleoak via Compfight cc

Weather, and its changing, always has a profound effect on me and my mindset. The beginning of autumn is a reminder to slow down and go with the flow; nobody is bigger than the seasons. It’s a reminder of your place in the grand orchestra – play your own note, at the right time, and let the rest worry about itself.

That’s the ideal, at least.

I wrote almost 3000 words on Eldritch yesterday, and then realised I was starting to go down a wrong path. I deleted more than 800 of the words I’d written and stared at the screen for a while, hating the flashing cursor. It took me longer than you’d think to work out it was time to leave it to one side. There’s a great saying, often quoted to me by my parents: You can only do a day’s work in a day. Often, I forget this, and I want to write the entire book in a day, or I demand of myself that I reach the 5000 word mark every single time I sit down to write.

It takes such effort to overcome your natural tendencies to want to do everything now, and move on to the next thing before you even have a chance to think about what you’re doing. It takes such work to treat your creative life with care, and to realise it’s not on a switch. It has ebbs and flows. It has the heat of summer, when things flow freely, and it has the frozen heart of winter when even writing one word is too much. It has times like this, when you have to remember to be gentle with yourself, and with your words, or risk having the whole thing fall to pieces. It’s too easy, when you’re beset with the stresses (half of them imagined, no doubt) of dealing with editorial feedback and beginning a new phase in your engagement with other writers and thinking long-term towards your career goals and navigating all the complicated, simple things that we all have to live with, like paying bills and keeping house and managing not to put your clothes on back-to-front, to let it overwhelm you and to lose the ‘control’ you’ve convinced yourself you have. Much better to realise that things will take their own time, and all you’ve got to do is keep putting one foot in front of the other.

One thing at a time. Everything in its proper sequence. Dance when the music plays, and don’t worry about the steps.

Do you find your moods and/or mindset are affected by the changing seasons? How does the approach of winter (if you’re a Northern Hemisphere-r!) make you feel? Any tips for remembering to slow down and take a step back when things start to get overwhelming?