For as long as I can remember autumn has been a difficult time of year for me.
I love the summer: the heat, the light, the freedom. So when autumn comes along, with its cooler days and darker nights, I cannot help but feel a sense of loss.
Added to this for the first thirty four years of my life was the creeping sense of dread that the new term would bring. As a student, then as a teacher. I knew I should be embracing the new school year with excitement and optimism, but in reality that always took a while to bed in: there was too much of the life I wanted to be living that had to be set aside first.
Over the past six years this has begun to change.
Not being in school has been part of it: I am still not quite used to the feeling of August rolling into September without that rising panic. For a while, when we were contemplating the possibility of entering the school system with Arthur, I began to try to compute what that would mean for our lives. It didn’t stick though, so although our activities did ramp up this year when autumn came around there was nothing forced or soul-destroying about it.
In fact the bulk of our activities have really helped us to embrace the change of seasons.
We spend two days a week in the forest at the moment – Monday and Tuesday, me and Arthur and Orson together, breathing fresh air and playing under an ever-changing canopy of leaves. And those leaves have been magnificent this year: I don’t ever remember them being quite so vibrant in their ochres and golds and reds. I also don’t remember ever having so much time to study them though, so it might be that.
Its not just the leaves either: the berries and seed pods and mushrooms and fungi have formed a fascinating canvas to our outdoor explorations. And with them autumn, rather than embodying the death of summer, has brought an explosion of new life for us to enjoy.
We have gorged on apples and blackberries, harvested a homegrown pumpkin to carve and set alight. Our celebration of halloween was actually a key part of the transition for our family: it is Arthur’s favourite festival, with its ghosts and skeletons and spooky tales, and I have loved learning about the traditions of Samhain which though they have lingered in the background of my consciousness in previous years really resonated with me this autumn. The closer I get to the earth the more seasonal change makes sense to me, the more I can feel enriched by it.
And when I came across this quote I realised that I was very nearly there: there is a part of me that misses the summer for sure, but there is a much greater part of me that is loving where we’re at right now.
Live in each season as it passes; breathe the air, drink the drink, taste the fruit, and resign yourself to the influence of the earth.
Henry David Thoreau
As much as I have reconciled myself with autumn, though, there is a greater seasonal change that I am still coming to terms with.
Since becoming a mother for a second time my world has shifted. It is ever-shifting, actually, but underlying all of it is a change that I am still not entirely comfortable with however hard I try.
I have been through this transition before, almost. When Arthur came along his seismic presence threw everything I knew into disarray. I resigned from my job, stepped back from my career, set myself new goals that would work alongside nurturing a small person into being. The first couple of years were a bit of a blur, but even then I was able to carve out time for myself. And as my little buddy grew older, as we came to understand each others’ rhythms, I had (almost) all the time I needed to do the things I longed to do.
I knew it would be harder when there were two, but I’m not sure I appreciated quite how much.
By some cruel irony the sparks of inspiration in my mind have gone into overdrive at the precise moment that the opportunities to sit in quiet and pursue them have dwindled almost to nothing. My head is full of words that have nowhere to go, my heart bursting with emotions looking desperately for some place to channel them. I find myself half-doing everything that the days put before me – half-eating meals, half-playing games, half-engaging in conversations – whilst simultaneously I am half-thinking about all the creative things I yearn to bring to life.
I have already brought to life this incredible little boy, this baby who climbs in cupboards and up stairs and clings to my trouser legs as he exclaims his delight at the lights and the pumpkins and the apples on the trees.
And I have already brought to life his big brother, who plays quietly with his lego whilst I attend to the baby’s needs, who is full of all the questions in the universe and bursts with love for his family however imperfect we might be.
This is my season: a season of sleepless nights and urgent nurturing, a season of unmet goals and unfinished conversations.
And I need to live in it, because I know that one day it will pass and I will have all the time in the world to do the things that feel so important to me right now but never again will I be able to hold my boys close whilst they are this small.
So I will breathe them in, and drink them up. Or at least I will try to: and I will try to be gentle on myself when the taste on my lips is not yet the creative success I long for.
Not yet. Because it will be, some day.