Preparing

The first day of November bears gifts for those who watch the skies. A line of four swans flies in silence among huge flocks of squawking geese arrowing south. A thick, vivid rainbow embraces the library as I get to work.

November brings golden sunrises and swirling pastel sunsets, but when we visit the dene the sun is just a blur of light struggling through gloom. The floodlights have been lit on the football pitches nearby and they seem to be hazed with mist. I remind myself that it is only lunch time, since it feels like the prelude to twilight already. The weekend’s gales have faded into a gentle breeze. I am warm because I am moving, but if I stopped I would feel the bite of cold air. Meteorologists have forecast snow for the coming week and the sensationalist papers are making a fuss about it, but the chances are that we won’t see it much below the north of Scotland.

The dene is slumbering, or so it seems. A few soft twitters from a tit, a brief alarm from a blackbird, but otherwise the trees are silent. The burn is a chain of still puddles. Tawny leaves are interlaced with ivy, raspberry and bramble leaves. A handful of sow thistle and a lone herb robert are the only blooms left. The rushes have yellowed. The avenue of lindens has dropped many of its leaves and they lie in heaps along the path and around the tree roots. One birch among a row of others has been lost to fungi, huge brackets climbing the trunk that have killed it from within.

The pond is peaceful. Trailing willows and floating birds. An older couple circuit the water slowly, holding hands. But then the black headed gulls rise in a frenzy, their screeches filling the air. A man and his son are feeding them. The mallards and moorhens move quietly and determinedly to take their fill among the flurry of white wings.

I know this season isn’t as quiet as it seems. Some creatures are still preparing for winter, hoarding what food they can. Some are busy munching their way through the leaf litter, breaking it down to feed themselves and whatever is nurtured by the remaining mulch. Spiders have been encasing their eggs safely in silk for the winter. They won’t see their children born but have given them the best chance they can. Fungi burst into fruit so that they can send out their spores. Trees pull nutrients back within, renewing themselves for the year to come.

And I’m preparing too. I’m no longer sending stories out, I’m holding them in. At Halloween I festooned my altar with photos of women writers. Not only to honour them, but to honour the thread of creativity that has been passed down through the generations. To remind me that there are others who have come before, women who can inspire and hold space for me when doubt comes. I am no longer languishing, but venturing out in search of stories. And then venturing in to find the words with which to tell them.

The air is full of drizzle on the day after Remembrance Sunday. Knitted poppies adorn the entrance to the cemetery. Rain patters softly on the remaining canopy. Leaves crackle as they fall. These gentle tickings are the only sounds. A discarded pumpkin lantern leers from the base of a tree. Here too, the landscape seems to slumber. But crows dig deep beneath heaps of leaves to find food. A squirrel weaves among the trees. On a nearby gravestone, a gull perches, watching us with interest. And these are only the preparations that we can see.

We walk past the crematorium and overhear part of the eulogy as a funeral takes place. The celebrant talks of a man who enjoyed photography. I smile at that creative thread that links me unexpectedly on this day to a stranger. We prepare, but we never know if our preparations will be enough or when they will no longer matter. Still, we do it, because we hope for a future in which they are enough. I am lucky to have shelter and food for the coming winter. The larder I fill is a creative one. Stories and images are the things I gather to see me through.

66 thoughts on “Preparing

  1. What a wise and comforting and delightful blog post. THANK YOU for reminding me of all the activity which continues to unfold in the non-human realms of plants and animals and fungi and bacteria. I, too, “am lucky to have shelter and food for the coming winter.”

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  2. It’s so nice to see you back Andrea. I so enjoy your musings and photos. I feel as though I’ve just shared a heartfelt stroll with a friend. Kudos on nurturing yourself and stories to share with the world. To autumn preparations…

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  3. What a nurturing journey through the fall, and nature (and you) preparing for winter. The light in your photos feels suspended. I love the photo of the poppies and bicycle. It would be gorgeous framed and I can easily see it in a gallery show. Thanks, Andrea. πŸ™‚

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  4. A beautiful post capturing the duality of the calm/busyness of the month and I sense the two emotions equally in you. A certain quiet and harmony and yet diligent eagerness to harness those words, create those stories, hoarding them into the New Year; all the time enjoying the richness of life in winter. x

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  5. Your creativity and close observations of nature and the passing of life are both nurturing and uplifting. I especially enjoy the depth and colour of your second photograph.

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  6. Another beautiful post, Andrea. I love your thoughts at the end – our preparations are done in hope, not knowing if they are sufficient or even needed. I sense hope and calm from your writing today.

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  7. There are many who write, but few who can transcend. It is always a joy to be pulled into the universe you reproduce with few meagre words. Your sensibility to nature is stunning. The end is both sobering and cathartic.

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  8. Beautiful melancholy, Andrea. Your stories will find you when it’s time. There is a lot of shifting going on with creative people right now. Lots of reflection on how to proceed.

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  9. The series of photos matches the mood and inspiration of your writing, I love the line “…And I’m preparing too. I’m no longer sending stories out, I’m holding them in.” and then how you describe the women who inspire allowing you to venture out and forward to find and be the next story. Agree, while this seems a quiet time of the year, I think we are all preparing mentally/physically for the winter that lies ahead. As bleak as moving into winter can be, in our hearts we also get excited at the possibilities πŸ™‚

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  10. Another very lovely photo-tour with you as our guide, Andrea. Thank you. I enjoyed these photos and your musings as always. I also appreciate the ebb-and-flow of the creative cycle, with its times of “holding stories in” and those of releasing them to the world (and, no doubt, at least one more phase of the cycle where the stories are gathering themselves within us!). Wishing you well over the coming weeks! ~ Jamie

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  11. Eloquent as ever Andrea, you draw from a very full well of words pertaining to the natural world. Short words like ‘dene’ and ‘burn’ are little used these days. I didn’t know that about spiders? How sad.

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  12. What a heart-filling post, Andrea. I am particularly moved by this part about your photos of women writers: “Not only to honour them, but to honour the thread of creativity that has been passed down through the generations. To remind me that there are others who have come before, women who can inspire and hold space for me when doubt comes.” I love your stories, my friend. Love you too.

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  13. Beautiful, thoughtful, and putting me in the right frame of mind, as always, Andrea. I want to make a nicho along the lines of what you have done with your altar. I think that would be very fruitful. Maybe it’s one of the assignments that “The Mother” tarot wants me to accept.

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  14. I made a note to seek out your latest post during a quiet afternoon with a cup of rooibos tea nearby…the sun is out in between atmospheric rivers…it’s lovely to walk through your world and come away feeling peaceful as well as grateful for the luxury of shelter and kitchen cupboards filled with the makings of future meals.
    I hope to read more of your beautiful words closer to the holidays and every year I look forward to your Candlemas post, Andrea!

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