Gathering

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October is the pause between breaths.  That still space where awareness will enter if you let it.  The harvest is in, but a few weeks remain until the celebration of the year’s end at Halloween.  October brings a taste of the darkness to come.  Mornings are haloes of misty light and frosted breaths in navy darkness.  But the days dawn brightly, reminding us that we haven’t yet reached the point of no return, that journey into the underworld where we’ll stay until the winter solstice.

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October is a skein of geese rising and falling like musical notes on a page as they come in to land for the night.  It’s a sandstorm whipping across an empty beach.  A windfall of sweet chestnuts, bursting from spiny cocoons.  Opulent berries studding leafless branches.

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I find myself in an acquisitive state of mind.  Not for things but for ideas.  Gathering.  Reading half a dozen books at once, dipping in and out as the mood takes me.  My reading is eclectic: trees, prehistory, festivals, bees.   I make notes, I underline, I follow a line of enquiry into something else.  At some point all this information I’ve gathered will shape itself into my dreams and passions for the coming year.

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When we consider our ancient ancestors, there’s usually an emphasis on hunting as the means to survival.  In fact, gathering is likely to have been just as important, if not more so, in keeping them alive.  Foraging for fruit, seeds and other resources supplemented their diet and was the only means of sustenance when no meat was available.  As a writer, there’s a time to ‘hunt’ a particular quarry for a specific purpose.  But, for me, now is the time to ‘gather’.  It’s in this way that I make new discoveries and forge new connections.  The purpose is never clear when I begin, but will eventually become so.

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And then, sweet serendipity.  A particular idea or theme will keep occurring.  I’ll read a book on a subject and suddenly that subject is everywhere.  Ideas that have always resonated suddenly gain new meaning.  Already, I’m beginning to notice things that may become themes for the coming year.  The pause before the year ends and I embrace introspection is an appropriate time to soak up ideas from around me that will take shape in the darkness.   And in the depths of midwinter, the pattern for a new year will be born.

84 thoughts on “Gathering

  1. I like your hunting and gathering metaphor for writing. I never thought of it that way before, but there are indeed times we’re more in a hunting mode. Other times we sit back and gather all the bits we’ll need for the more active writing phase.

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  2. I loved this post! And wishing you all good things during this time. When something seems to stick in my brain and I notice it on a consistent basis, to quote Roy Neary in Close Encounters of the Third Kind: “This means something. This is important.” (A favorite film, any chance to bring it up, I take it lol).

    For me, here in Southern California, the summer was so hot, now that the weather is cool and breezy, it feels like a very active time. I can finally go hiking and day-tripping again!

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    • Thanks Laurie, that’s a great quote, expresses it very well! Strangely I always want to go out and about when the weather is colder, when you’d think summer would be that time (given that our summers aren’t as hot as yours!)

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  3. So very poetic. I love that picture of the geese. It looks like punctuation. Such beautiful photos, Andrea. You’re an artist, indeed.

    (And this time of year inspires in me exactly these sentiments. You’ve expressed the season very well).

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  4. I love this and so agree with you… it is that pause between the frenzy of reaping all we’ve sown and the “dormant” period which is actually a great time to sit back and think and plot…

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  5. I love the mystical quality you get into your writing. I like the concept of gathering ideas at this time of the year, just like storing up for the harvest. Your pictures are lovely too – I especially like the birds in flight.

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  6. I am doing the same re: books. A flurry of activity and interest. And themes–well now you’ve got me thinking. I’m going to have to think about that one. Teachers keep making themselves known. But now I’ll have to look for themes.

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  7. This is wonderful. You have put your finger right on it, and I feel in such good company, gathering my thoughts for the winter. I dread the cold but dream about the long, snow-silenced nights where I can calmly write down the collected harvest of my feverish autumn imaginings. ^_^

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  8. Andrea, I kept this post as a special treat before heading for bed and I’m so glad I did as it reads like a lullaby. It would be lovely to hear you read it ~ as the wind howls outside and the Monkey Puzzle knocks against the ‘study’ window.
    Happy Gathering and may it be fruitful and full of peace and promise.
    Sleep tight,
    j

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  9. “Suddenly that subject is everywhere” is SO true. I watched a documentary on fractals in nature a few months ago and now when I look at plants and flowers that’s all I see. Nature is amazing :D.

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  10. Sweetly composed metaphor. If there was suddenly a world food shortage how many of us would have the ability to gather and forage to survive? One of my favourite books, Naomi Baltuck’s ‘Keeper of the Crystal Spring’ has some wonderful passages as Aldyth, the apprentice ‘Keeper’, gathers Nature’s herbs and plants for medicinal and nutritional purposes for her village. She’d be considered a crank by the medical profession today.

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  11. A beautifully crafted post capturing perfectly the ‘hunting and gathering’ season that October personifies. It is such a wonderful time for creativity to spark off and set alight those ideas in their formation during the dark days to come, ready for their birth as the spring bulbs arrive. Lovely photographs as always Andrea, the perfect autumn post, thank you 🙂

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  12. Your writing is exquisite Andrea (had to use an adjective that made me think of beauty and deliciousness at the same time). Great post 🙂 I find I am in a similar ‘space’ or state of mind. I too am busy gathering. In fact I have been gathering stories from strangers and will write a little about this in my new post (if I get to it today):D

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  13. Andrea,
    Beautiful post! Like you, I am diving in and out of several books right now. So unlike me as I don’t like to “cheat” on my books, preferring to focus attention on one book at a time! Its odd how story seeds present themselves, isn’t it? Certain “inspirations” implore to be written down.
    Autumn is such a lovely season, so much gorgeousness.
    Thank you for writing such a lovely post.
    x

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  14. Your approach to winter is one that I hope to emulate more this year. And as an archaeologist, your analogies of hunting and gathering for writing are spot on for me. A particular group in one of my WIPs also applies those ancient ways to their modern lives.

    After reading this post, I can almost look forward to winter.

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  15. Such a beautiful description of October – one of my favourite months! Although I live in Singapore (and, unfortunately, we don’t get autumn here) the way you described it made me feel almost like it was that time of year once more. Thank you so much for sharing. xxx

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  16. What a wonderful way of looking at this time of year. Every day, when I’m sitting at the desk where I do most of my writing, I’ve seen a squirrel busy gathering. Now I can feel an affinity with him, with your words echoing in my head.

    Your photos are wonderful, with such richness of colour in those berries. And it’s a real gift of yours, Andrea, that your sharing of knowledge and wisdom always sounds so poetic.

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  17. Your words about hunting and gathering went straight to my heart. Sometimes we are blessed with inspiration and just have to gather all the abundance of ideas, carefully putting them together. Some other times we have to hunt, to set traps and make an awful effort to create:) Thank you for this wonderful post. You are always an inspiration!

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  18. Aww, you used one of my favorite words…opulent. Such a beauty of a post! I, too, love the hunting and gathering idea. I’m definitely in the gathering phase right now and I think I’m going to stay there for a bit. It feels right.

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  19. I really like the idea of hunting and gathering for writers. How true and how important! But, I’m really impatient and always bursting at the seams to simply write, so this phase is not one of my stronger ones.

    I would not do well as a squirrel.

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  20. Despite its eclectic nature your gathering seems selective and judicious. Like the squirrel another commenter mentioned, you seem to be letting yourself collect only what is needed, though, as yet, you are unsure what it is needed for. At this end of the earth, I am discarding. Spring cleaning frenzy is upon me.

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  21. I appreciate the beauty, thoughtfulness, and depth as always, Andrea.

    “At some point all this information I’ve gathered will shape itself into my dreams and passions for the coming year.”

    That will be harvest giving birth to harvest.

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  22. Strange, I don’t understand how I could have missed this post. I never miss anything from you Andrea. I may comment a little later but ..anyway
    Nonetheless, so glad to have found it because this is such a poetic pearl!
    Perfect evocation of the season. I love it!

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