Autumn Equinox

Another world is not only possible, she is on her way. On a quiet day, I can hear her breathing.” – Arundhati Roy


The dawn comes later now. I rise to greet it, stepping outside the front door in my dressing gown.

My only company at this hour is the birds, kindling the morning light with their bright chatter; the soft, low, rhythmic coo of the wood pigeon, and the moon: a silver thumbnail ringed with purple and gold where the high cloud illuminates its halo. There is an earthy, metallic tang to the air which invites my lungs to expand. The cat pads up, purring wildly, paws soft and wet, coat smelling of damp earth. Poems drip from the mottled, fading bramble leaves like so many dewdrops.

Here at the night’s end, the world is still and cool, rippling with possibilities.

Morning comes. I go about the work of the day. My daughter. The school run. The housework, the laundry. I smudge the house and go to tidy the herb garden, clearing away the dead growth, tending the plants which envelop me in their soft fragrance as I pull and cut.

I harvest fennel, sage, lemonbalm and mint to use in herbal teas and baths.

I pluck the last of the tomatoes which I planted with my daughter in the spring, popping a few straight off the vine into my mouth, savouring the warmth and sweetness of the fruit.

I dead-head and gather the dry, talon-like seeds of the calendula to sow next year, and empty the kitchen peelings into the compost bin to be recycled into rich humus. It’s a joy to be creating my own organic, black soil for this tiny patch of land: reciprocating, in some small way, the gifts it offers me.

By the time I am finished, a still, golden light coats everything it touches in liquid silk. I smooth my fingers over the trunk of the baby ash tree and gaze up at the mother tree, which sways softly in the quickening breeze, bees and songbirds about her boughs, leaves making dappled patterns as though I am underwater, looking up at the surface of a lake.

A branch quivers and dances in a sudden flurry of wind, its leaves glimmering and trembling ever faster. Then a quick, unhesitating thing happens: the leaf, or the tree, or perhaps both, just lets go.

The leaf spirals to the ground in a fluttering motion not unrecognisable as joy.

It just lets go.

Welcome autumn!








Enraptured in Autumn by Ellen Brenneman

Work on the allotment and on doing any writing whatsoever ground to a halt over the summer. I needed to be present in mothering my one year old, who is growing up, like everyone said, all too quickly. But things are picking up a little.

July was hot and heavy and ablaze with wild storms. September felt more like August and vice versa, and each month was illuminated by a giant, beautiful ‘supermoon’. It was the hottest, longest summer anyone could remember for ages – but for some reason I never quite managed to shake off the feeling of hibernation.

Only as autumn swept in, as the days grew cooler and the light mellowed into gold did I begin to feel more at ease. I love autumn’s mood of reflection, its fruitfulness, the feeling of slowing down and the gentle transition to the dark time of the year. On crisp, sunny days I can’t imagine a lovelier place to live than here. I got my own car again, making trips to  the allotment, and many other places besides, infinitely more possible. Though summer faded, life somehow felt like it was beginning again.

I went back to the plot and started afresh.

Together Mat, Myla and I planted fruit trees: apple, cherry, peach and plum. They are magnificent and had the immediate, desired effect of making the plot look a lot less neglected. Around the trees I chucked handfuls of bee-friendly crocus, narcissus and muscari bulbs. I laid an allium bed with lots of ‘purple sensation’ and a few ‘globemaster’ bulbs and sprinkled it with forget-me-nots. The hope is that these will resemble large purple pom-poms floating in a sea of blue froth when they flower next year. That’s if we manage to keep the weeds at bay…

I have developed a healthy obsession with bulbs and gone mad for tulips, more alliums, hyacinths, crocus and irises, all of which Myla helped me plant in pots in the back garden. I love the optimism of planting bulbs at this time of year, of looking ahead to spring before winter has even arrived. It’s a perfect antidote to the encroaching darkness.

On the writing front, progress is stunted – but the work is happening, even if it often feels like wading through treacle. Overcoming the voices of self-doubt and negativity can be difficult but, as James Radcliffe talks about in his blog, unpleasant is sometimes necessary. Sometimes the non-days where it feels like nothing much is achieved at all are just the quiet lulls before a surge of productivity – at least, I hope they are

And so I keep going back, starting afresh. I am re-reading Clarissa Pinkola Estes wonderful book Women Who Run With the Wolves (if I can call it that, since it’s not the sort of book I will ever ‘finish’ – more one which I dip in and out of whenever I need it). In it, she says of creativity:

“Some say the creative life is in ideas, some say it is in doing. It seems in most instances to be in a simply being. It is the love of something, having so much love for something – whether a person, a word, an image, an idea, the land, or humanity – that all that can be done with the overflow is to create.”

Writing and gardening, in this sense, are really just forms of creation, or overflowings of love. Which is, I think, exactly what the world needs now.

Illustration by Ellen Brenneman (