In those times of tension brought on by the strains of family life, I often forget what is available to me outside my door. When Rob is around and I know I need to quickly grab some time and space for myself I panic a bit. What to do? A run, a bike ride, some projects that have been waiting to be completed for a long time? I had such a moment on Saturday. I was looking outside at the bright equinox day, unsure about how to best use my time when I heard the woods calling me.
The woods run right up to the back of our house and as soon as I remembered them I knew this was what I needed. I was quickly out of doors with camera in hand and crossed the yard. Slipping into that dark familiar embrace brought deep and immediate relief. The air smelled sweet and damp, the soft mud of a million fallen leaves squelched deliciously as I walked gratefully up the path. Illuminated leaves shone against the dark, and I was rapt.
There is so much relief and refuge to be found beneath a leafy canopy; these woods are mostly birch, airy and full of life. Ferns and grasses cover the floor, cobwebs stretch across pathways with their spiders dangling from threads, performing aerial tricks and small furry creatures scurry towards hidden dens.
Underneath these kindly boughs seemed to be the perfect place to contemplate the closing of the summer. Where light and dark produce such perfectly balanced beauty, where sharp air fills the lungs and clears the head. It's a good time to take stock of the harvest, both personal and edible, to look at the seeds that were sown last Autumn, see what has come to fruition in our lives and be thankful for our gifts. Here, with the sun playing amongst the translucent forms of the wood, I am thankful for the rest and regeneration that is constantly open to me through connection with the land.
The pagan year is drawing to a close. In a few weeks Samhain will celebrate the new year and welcome in the dark, cold, wet and barren months. No doubt there will be challenging days ahead and I am hoping that, if I can ready myself, perhaps I can weather the winter with a little more grace and patience than usual. Walk, when I can, with the falling leaves and the keen wind, say soft goodbyes to the fading green, remembering that it will return.
Soon, the trees will be stripped to their bare bones and will stand like ranks of skeletons across these hills. But they, like us, will only be resting; putting their energy into their roots, reaching down into the earth for strength and sustenance; ready to emerge next year, into the light once more.