Anchored

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It has been a summer of drifting.  One day into another, sun into rain and back again.  There has been no definition to the season.  No meadow season.  No season of tiny flying things.  Not even the dreaded dog days of August.  Even now, as the season turns, we drift from the hottest September day for over sixty years into impenetrable fog.  And I have drifted too.  There has been my job and the times in between; there has been little writing.  I have no clear sense of what I’ve done with my summer.  Writing is so often about trying: trying to find a story; trying to write that story in the way you have imagined it; trying to find someone to publish it.  Sometimes what’s necessary is to stop trying and drift for a while.

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But summer has begun to drift into autumn.  The days shorten imperceptibly.  It is always a surprise how early darkness comes.  Mist festoons the dawn.  The spiders are at work building their webs.  And I’ve come back to the earth to find an anchor, something to root me to the creativity of autumn.  Walking into the forest is always a liminal thing.  There is the moment before, when you are in open landscape, and the moment after, when the trees enfold you.  This is my threshold: the drifting summer before I entered the trees, the rooted autumn afterwards.

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For me, autumn is all about earth.  It is about the call of the land.  Magically, autumn is associated with water, but the creativity that finds me in this season is from the deep darkness of the earth.  It rises from below and from within.  So I’ve come back to the woods, to walk earthen paths and to be cossetted in a claustrophobia of trees.  I’ve left the airiness of the sea and the wide horizon, for a horizon cloaked by green.

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And here, I also find stones.  On the North Yorkshire moors the Bridestones are sandstone formations shaped 150 million years ago.  To reach them, the track is steep and strenuous, through old oak forest.  I can’t imagine that the trees will ever open up into moorland.  But soon there is a gate, leading through a bracken-choked field.  And then there is a track, purpled with heather, and there is the first stone, drawing us on.

The stones are giants.  Gnarled, pocked and ridged, crevices inhabited by wild flowers.  They stand on either side of a deep valley, a semi circle of watchers.  It is said that their name is from the old Norse for ‘edge stones’, but the edge of what?  Some say they are the petrified remains of bridal parties lost in the mist on the moors.  Others say they are sacred to the goddess Bride, she ‘of the high places’.  But there is more than one goddess here.  The stones have the shades of old crones within them – a face here, a silhouette there.  These are hoary old goddesses.  Fierce, watchful, demanding.

This is a wide open place.  I stand on an outcrop and despite the fierce humidity of the day, I feel the whip of the wind across the valley.  This is an unforgiving landscape and if you were lost here, I suspect you would get no quarter from these stones.  But still, they sing of what is beneath and within the landscape.  There is more to the Crone than ferocity.

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Back in the woods, I watch two sexton beetles battle over the corpse of a shrew.  The loser crawls away in defeat, while the victor scurries to the body to begin work.  The beetle will excavate the earth beneath it, drawing the body under the soil, where it will be food for its larvae.  Look closely and you can see the tiny mites that live in co-operation on the beetle, eating the eggs of other flesh-easting rivals.  It can take eight hours for the beetle to finish its work.   The next day I return and on the surface there is no trace, but beneath the earth, who knows what transformation is taking place?

This is the season of beneath.  When the fungi whose roots bide their time for miles under the earth suddenly fruit.  A shaggy inkcap, a foot tall, beckons to a fence.  Beyond the fence, forgotten steps sprouting bracken lead down to an old makeshift bridge spanning the beck.  This is the season when hidden things become visible.  I sit on the verandah and a roe deer appears, no more than a metre away.  It stops and looks at me for one perfect moment, before bounding into the forest.  The spirit of the woods has visited.

Harvest is almost upon us; when the fruits of our labours make themselves known and we reckon up what we have achieved.  I have anchored myself back to the earth, ready for the coming season of fruitfulness.  I do my best creative work in the dark half of the year, delving beneath and within the darkness to shape the year’s dreams.

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97 thoughts on “Anchored

  1. Like the hidden roe deer, you appear! 🙂 You know I share your excitement for the coming days of short light and long imagination… Happy harvest-time to you!

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  2. Having read your blog for a while now , I think this time of the year you are the most creative, and yet looking back at Spring that was pretty darn good too .
    We have a little cove near to us , Cwmtydu , and it has rocks that resemble drunken old men …at this time of year as the light gets a little less , the men are more visable
    Cherryx

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  3. Your stories about the stones and beetles are fascinating. Beautiful pictures. In your words I see the depth of your connection to your surroundings and countless possibilities for contemplation. Best wishes as you come to ground after the summer.

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  4. Thank you for such a beautiful entrance into Autumn! This is one hoary old goddess who really appreciates it.
    The other thing I love about this season are the smells … partly still Summer smells, but also the harvest and mulch that is to come. To me Autumn contains a greater variety of smells than any other season.
    Wishing you joy and adventure in your creative anchoring …

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  5. Andrea I’ve missed your beautiful lyrical posts. This one is lovely. I especially enjoyed the photos of the stones and your narrative of them.
    Here spring and (especially) autumn are just blurs before the next harsher season arrives. Throughout the summer we’ve had record numbers of days with temperatures over 90 (32.2), even now in September. So summer will blur into winter. However, your post helps be imagine a true autumn. Welcome back. Hugs.

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  6. I can smell autumn in your words. That’s fascinating about the shrew being dragged into the earth by the beetle. It’s not something I’ve ever witnessed. There are so many things happening beneath our feet that are often taken for granted. Now, when I’m out for my next walk in the woods, I’m going to ponder that underground activity more than I might have done, and watch out for more signs of nature’s busy-ness. I love the North Yorkshire Moors and have never forgotten when, aged 19, I did the Lyke Wake Walk (an old Roman marching route). Have also never forgotten the barn owl sitting on one of those craggy rocks at dawn, with the lights of Middlesbrough twinkling far below.
    Lovely to see you back in Blogland, after your summer of drifting.

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    • Thanks Sarah, I never would have noticed the beetles if my dog hadn’t sniffed them and then it wasn’t until I looked them up that I understood what was happening – I wish I’d known at the time as I would have stayed longer to watch! I’ve only seen a very small portion of the North Yorkshire Moors, but it seems there is so much to discover. A fruitful autumn to you 🙂

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  7. Lovely post Andrea, and good to see you back, too. I’ve been very passive on the writing front too – preferring to read. Writers have to read, right? I think you are spot on – the dark Autumn evenings will be conducive to snuggling down with a keyboard and renewed creativity 😉

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  8. Thank you for grounding me in this lovely piece, Andrea. So peaceful and relaxing. Autumn is my favorite time of year as well, except the shorter days like to tease me with vertigo. I’ll get through them, as I always do, while still marveling at the radiant display of rustic colors offered by the trees. Good to “see you” again.

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  9. I was scanning my Inbox, hoping to find your autumnal post since we are entering this season that you treasure so much. And here it is. As gorgeous and eloquent as ever. It has been a warm and dry summer in Maine, where I almost always spend most of the summer and early fall. It finally rained last night and this morning. Although the air is still soft, the sun sets sooner every night. I am a fall person too and I already write more than I did over the longer summer days. I hope that your creativity will bloom over the next weeks and through the whole season. Best to you, Andrea.

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    • Thanks Evelyne, I’ve been on holiday for a couple of weeks and have noticed the difference in the mornings when we take the dog out for his walk – it’s dark now, but that has its compensations walking in the park with the moon still up. Good to see you Evelyne.

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  10. How beautiful. August was a bit of a dragged out endurance test for me. I was coming to the end of a piece of work that I’d re-worked and felt stale but knew there were a few more bits I need at the end to tie it together. It felt like the end of a long, long slog and I’d sort of lost the ability to see if it was working. Now it’s sent off and I wait and with the cooler air feel new energy seep into me to hopefully get me going on new projects.

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  11. Wonderful photos ~ and I can see how easy it is to drift along, and somewhere within all that drifting comes inspiration. I think part of the beauty of summer, and at times why I dislike it compared to autumn, is that often I leave summer with no clear sense of what I’ve done… Great words and photos and wish you a great harvest this autumn 🙂

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  12. Beautiful post, Andrea. I’m thankful that our friend Cynthia Reyes reblogged this because somehow I missed it. We’re still waiting for some autumn like temperatures, currently it feels more like August. Your photographs are stunning!

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  13. so pleased that you reappeared from the mists!! I like the analogy of drifting with the seasons and I think like you the darker months are the most creative. This summer was so busy for me I didn’t have much time to enjoy it but now in the woodland it’s quite wonderful to feel the change and watch the trees light up with autumnal fire. Deer are also frequent visitors here and a little squirrel! The raccoons raided the garbage can lol. I love your hoary old goddess crones and the song of the deep earth. What a wonderful walk and beautiful images Andrea!!

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  14. What a way to return in style? You always evoke a mystical spirit to the land and it is wonderful to feel that, I love the idea of things below as well. Those stones remind me of the TV show Children of the Stones with its freaky opening soundtrack.

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  15. Beautiful writing, Andrea! “Walking into the forest is always a liminal thing. There is the moment before, when you are in open landscape, and the moment after, when the trees enfold you. This is my threshold: the drifting summer before I entered the trees, the rooted autumn afterwards.” I love that image! I am also looking forward to the dark, restful time ahead.

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  16. Exquisite combo of words and images. Do you ever tire of that same compliment from me, doll? 🙂

    Autumn is all about earth for me too. Loved “this is the season of beneath.” As we began an early fall, I felt that pull and the chaos that came with it. I’ve been on a creative high for a few weeks now, and I had so much energy that I had trouble sleeping (I blame the full moon in there somewhere).

    I’ve been working on more grounding yoga postures and aromatherapy. That’s been helping sooooooooo much. Need to get cozy with the earth, instead of blowing with the wind.

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  17. Oh. My. What a gorgeous piece of writing. I’ve read this post several times, getting new nuances every time, all seeped in nostalgia and reawakenings, a deep sense of serenity yet a call to action. A M A Z I N G. You have inspired me with this piece. Summer is time for creativity to laze around in the pool or the lake, to float rather aimlessly. But now, the hoary ancient goddess of imagination is rearing its beautiful head, and you are urging us along. THANK YOU.

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  18. It sounds like you are looking forward to the writing process in the darker half of the year, now that the drifting summer has come and gone.. I sense a wistfulness in your words about the ending of summer.. but we can look forward to more of your beautiful writing soon and blog posts that I treasure from you xx

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  19. I enjoyed your writings on the earth and the seasons so much, Andrea. Those stones are really wonderful, enjoyed the photos. My best to you in the dark months ahead, your time for creating has already begun with this peaceful post.

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  20. Thank you for this lovely, lovely walk through the woods, the lavender, the stones. Your writing is both elegant and heartfelt. Makes me dream.
    Yes, we who write are always trying. And it IS trying at times. And sometimes just where we live.

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  21. I find all the trying exhausting sometimes. It’s important to make time to drift. 🙂 Eventually, we find our way back to trying and are renewed in our next efforts. 🙂 I love those old rocks–they remind my of the Garden of the Gods in Colorado. I saw so many shapes and faces in them too!

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  22. Andrea – I love how you bring us home to your part of the world and plant us firmly among the birds of flight and bugs beneath the earth. Your descriptive elements of your environment are vivid and a masterful body of work. To top everything; those photos always touch my heart and take my breath away.

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  23. Andrea I am not sure why but Autumn has this effect on me, like new beginnings I guess? We are heading into Spring but its still cold here in the mornings. Thanks for sharing all those wonderful photos. Good luck I imagine your creativity will double.
    Kath

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  24. Pingback: 5 Ways to Embrace Fall for Some Well-Deserved Wellness – Britt Skrabanek

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