Here’s the first of several videos that I shot while I was back home in Quebec visiting family for the first time since the pandemic. It was so good to be back, and I’m glad I got the chance to film these videos to remind me of home 🙂 This is a spot where I spent hours as a teenager, just listening to the river and watching the water flow…
I leave for the UK soon. I decide to walk down in the valley, seeing if the old horse trails are still there, even though the horses are long gone. It’s a beautiful, sunny autumn day, the sun is hot and the breeze is cool. The milkweeds are releasing their seeds, the goldenrod drying in the sun. The leaves on the maple, birch, ash and poplar are changing into their autumn splendour. It’s utterly magical. The liminality of this time shines bright, and the veil between the worlds thins as we shift into another energy.
I walk slowly down into the valley. I say a blessing for the place, and touch the earth. I continue down through the trees out into the open space. I see a young woman with long blond hair down in the centre of the valley, and I smile. She’s walking slowly, just like I am, soaking it all in. Noticing the small things as well as the grandeur of the larger spirit of place. I say hello as we pass, she heading the way I came and I moving down towards the reeds, seeking the ridge where the horses used to shelter from the sun.
The paths are still there along the ridge, and where horses once keep the trail open it is now mountain bikers on the weekends. Regardless, I am glad that the trails are still there and that others are appreciating them, albeit in a slightly different way.
I walk along the ridge, the light shining through the pines and the birch trees with a soft, ethereal light. To either side of me the ground falls away sharply. This is a special place, a liminal place, which once only I and the horses knew. I walk up the hill along the ridge, and come out on top of the world. Well, my own little world from when I was growing up.
As a teenager, I would come out to this hilltop and sit, looking out over the forest and hills that I roamed, into the distance where the sun and moon rose over the mountain. I stood there and took it all in, and then saw the young woman once again, walking up along the trails that I used to walk, coming towards me from the other direction. It was like I was passing by my own self from thirty years ago. She sat down in the spot that I always used to sit, and gazed out over the mountains resplendent in hues of red, copper, orange and green. I had wanted to sit there and think, to become part of this land once again, but then I realised that my time here has come and gone. Now it is her time, and after her there will be others, roaming these hills in quiet solitude, discovering who they truly are and what matters most to them. Nature is always changing, and I must change with it.
I walk up to her and excuse my interruption. She smiles, and I ask if I can take her picture. I tell her that she reminds me of myself from thirty years ago, and she agrees with a grin. I know that grin. I take her picture, and thank her from the bottom of my heart. As I walk away down the path she walked in on, I silently bless her and the land and ask that future generations take good care of this very special place.
I am crying now, the tears releasing years of pent up energy and worry, of longing and hiraeth for this special place. But I know that it will be safe, that there are others who are seeing the beauty and who walk its paths in honour and in wonder. I know that the magic is still very much alive.
I wipe the tears and walk down the hillsides, back to the main path. I have come full circle, and met my own self in autumn’s light. The tides of time had shifted, and we came together for a reason. And I know that in autumn’s light, we count our blessings.
The air is cool, the sun is warm, the heather is out and the deer are starting to gather. Welcome the changing of the seasons!
The rut is now over, and the heath is quiet. The deer are, of course, still there, but the stags are no longer calling in the twilight hours. The mists have crept in, the air is chill, and the days are short. And yet, there is beauty all around.
Doesn’t matter – go outside, if you can. It’ll be worth it 🙂 Today’s morning walk:
Autumn is here, though it’s a bit of a strange autumn. The leaves on the birch trees turned golden a couple of weeks ago, and now most of them have fallen to cover the forest floor in a beautiful golden light. But the oak, the ash and the beech trees are only now just starting to turn, and there’s still a lot of green about. The heather on the heath, which should be a brilliant purple colour, is slowly coming back to life after the rains. It was such a dry summer, that even out in the arid conditions of the heathland, things were dying before they had a chance to come into their own.
But it is definitely autumn, and you can smell it on the wind. That scent is so unmistakeable. It’s hard to describe: it’s a lovely, earthy smell so different from the green scent of summer, or the blossom scent of spring. The winds have ravaged these lands and all others across the country, stripping the trees of their colourful leaves before their time, and branches and fallen trees everywhere. Getting out in between the gales and the heavy rainstorms is a real gamble, so bringing your wet weather gear is essential.
It’s not been an easy year, not just for us humans, but for a lot of nature in this area. Though some species did well during the lockdown, many others have suffered from the lack of rain and a drought for two summers in a row. The hawks have been plentiful, and the deer have managed to keep their numbers up, but the plant life has suffered, and whether there will be enough food to keep them all strong throughout the winter remains to be seen.
And yet, despite all this, my heart sings merely at the thought of autumn. For it is my absolute favourite season, though here in the UK it is far too short. We don’t get the vibrant colours that I grew up with in Canada, but the feeling of nature winding down, of that last pause before dusk, the late afternoon sunlight shining through the clouds, the smell of woodsmoke on the wind – it all fills me with such peace. Gone is the harsh overhead sun, and instead it is dancing, playing through the turning leaves to fall upon the forest floor in dappled light.
The deer are gathering in larger and larger herds, and soon they will be all together out on the heath. The stags have begun to call, and it is the beginning of the deer rut. There are two main players this year, the dark stag who has been King for the last few years, and a new one, dappled and still young, but big and strong. I’m sure there will be some furious matches as they lock antlers in the evening’s failing light.
The foxes have been calling, and visiting us in the night, making their weird cries and strange sounds, or just padding silently down the path in the moonlight. The owls are hooting in the trees, and the pheasants are trumpeting in the night shadows. Hunting season has begun for them, and so we find all those lucky enough to have escaped coming round our way, to find sanctuary amidst the few houses here on the edge of the village.
Autumn is a time to pause, to stop, and to reflect on the bounty that we have collected throughout our labours in the year. Some things may have come to fruition, some may not, and some may still remain dreams, to foster once again through the long winter months until the sun’s strengthening light encourages us to manifest these dreams in the light of day. It is a time for long walks and enjoying the weather, in rain or sunshine. We feel the growing darkness all around us, and we welcome that even as we bask in the last of the golden light. Thoughts are turning inwards, hearts and minds becoming reflective. It is a time to take stock, to see what still needs to be done before the winter’s arrival, and what we need to make it through the cold time of icy frosts and winds from the north.
Take this moment, and enjoy it, for it doesn’t last long. Pause, listen, and learn from nature about the cycles of life, death and regeneration. Find out where you fit in the grand scheme of things, where you stand as a contributing member of your ecosystem. And dance in the light of autumn, feeling its ethereal and brief moments in time deep within your soul.
(Photos taken in Rendlesham Forest, © Joanna van der Hoeven 2020)
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This is my favourite season, and I’ve created a video to try and capture that moment. I’ve been filming all last week, and also making music as featured on the video. More details in the video’s information on YouTube 🙂
As we stand at the turning point of the seasons, we welcome this balance point, knowing that tomorrow we will welcome the growing darkness even as we welcomed the light in the spring. For without night there is no day, without spring no summer, without death there is no life. We are all a part of this cycle of manifestation, growth, decay and rejuvenation.
It’s here, even though it’s hot. Autumn has come, on soft wings of golden light. The forest floor is scented with newly fallen and decaying leaves, the air has a tinge of the turning season. I adore this time, and I hope it’ll be a long one this year.