Week 3: Life. Death. Nature.

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Are you still spotting the signs of autumn that we looked
out for in Week One?  It’s pretty hard to
not notice, whether it’s the pleasant stuff such as pavements strewn with
conker shells and acorns or the less pleasing aspects like the encroaching dark
nights.  Nature and the changing seasons
throw it all at us, often at the same time: things we think of as positive and
those we label as negative.  We can’t
have one without the other.  Those
gorgeous crisp starry nights also mean cold and frosty mornings.  There is the riot of glorious technicolour as
the leaves turn and then fall.  And on my
word, how good are they at the minute?
Talk about going down in a blaze of glory.  Some trees are so beautiful at the minute
that remembering to breathe – or keep my eyes on the road as I drive past – is difficult.  This spectacle is soon is followed by the
sludgy mulch of decaying foliage on the paths, treacherous and icky – and if
you live in the UK, also the cause of annual ‘leaves on the line’ train travel
disruption (really this is a thing in Britain.
I’m not kidding).  Then the trees
stand bare and brown through the dark cold months when we would welcome a blast
of colour and joy.

This is the paradox of nature.  Life and death intertwined…and inevitable.  The two ultimate opposites, coexistent and
concurrent.  Life and death are constant
themes in nature but never are they more visible to us than at this time of
year, when the trees, fields and hedgerows offer us their bounty and their
beauty for a fleeting moment before apparent dormancy takes hold.  In a few weeks, it will be hard to imagine
the lushness of autumn was ever with us.
At times it may even seem hard to believe, to trust, that life will ever
flourish again.

We can’t cling on to all that we are enjoying about the
season right now any more than we can turn the world on its axis to avoid
darker nights and colder days.  Wishing
it were otherwise can be tempting but is ultimately frustrating and certainly
futile.  But we can learn, slowly perhaps
at first, to accept the turning of the year just as we accept the rising and
setting of the sun.  They are the rhythms
of life, and those of death too.

Not clinging does not mean, however, that we can’t
celebrate.  Let us enjoy this blaze of
glory for those precious moments that it is with us.  It will be gone soon, which is all the more
reason to embrace and enjoy it now rather than simply skipping to mourn for
what will follow.  The crown of autumn
may be fleeting but perhaps that is part of the challenge, part of the allure –
it makes us present to this very moment, these very weeks.  We have to be present centred, not day
dreaming about our summer holidays or worrying about the festive season ahead –
the past and future are merely distractions that rob us of the jewels we
possess right now.  Here.  In this place.  In this moment.

Gather these jewels whilst you can.  Start a nature table, create an altar, give
over a shelf to celebrate and recognise autumn whilst she is with us.  It doesn’t have to be big; I love the little
collection gathered in a bowl, as pictured, which a child put together during a
garden working party I attended last Saturday.  Simply pick up tokens that catch your eye.  Conkers, acorns and leaves are the obvious examples, but there is really no limit.  The adventurous (and suitable knowledgeable) amongst us could forage for all edible items.  Or if you can’t get out into nature, how about bringing to you by searching your books & the online world for evocative descriptions or amazing images?  And please do share your collections, your creations, your responses, either on the A Life Of One’s Own Facebook page or using the hashtag #fourthquarter2015 on Twitter or Instagram.  I’ll be adding further thoughts and (hopefully!) inspiration through those streams across the week ahead.  I’d love you to share with us too.

Worship the amazingness that is the natural world in autumn.  Be in awe of what is happening around us
right now, because before we know it, it will be gone – as surely as day is
followed by night, and life is followed by death.

The Fourth Quarter: Week One – Look for Signs

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It was a gloriously warm September afternoon.  I almost regretted wearing my new wool jacket
as I stood guzzling a bottle of pop whilst enjoying the sun on my back.  But when I got back to my car, there it
was.  Irrefutable evidence.  A crisp golden leaf lying on the roof: a definitive
sign that summer is done.  Autumn time is
here.

The leaves turning and falling may be a sure sign that the
seasons have turned but it isn’t the only one.
In the last week I’ve noticed the early morning nip in the air and
received carrier bags full of apples passed along to prevent the garden’s glut
going to waste.  

Autumnal cues aren’t restricted to the natural world.  We can see them everywhere, in towns and
cities as much as villages and country lanes.
Again in the last week, I’ve delighted in seeing small children wearing
big uniforms and spotting the first crushed conker shells on the pavement.  

Not all the signs are welcome, of course.  Some relish the darker nights and colder days
but not everyone shares this enthusiasm for ‘seasons of mist and mellow
fruitfulness’.  Knowing that soon one
will have to get up in the dark and come home from work in the dark is a common
complaint.  For others, losing the long
languid days of summer triggers a more serious response, and they enter a
period as dark and cold as the world outside their door.

Whichever your stance, I welcome you to join in with The Fourth Quarter.  

If you love this time of year then The Fourth Quarter offers reflections to enhance your appreciation
and opportunities to celebrate what you treasure.  

If the prospect of some nice new knitwear doesn’t spark joy
in your heart, then there’s something here for you too.  I hope that within the weekly reflections you’ll
find a snippet that resonates, a spark that excites or a morsel of comfort – even
just one thing to embrace as we move towards the end of the year.

All you have to do is read and reflect.  Read these weekly commentaries then reflect
upon them as you go about your days.  Nothing
more demanding than that.  If you’d like
to share thoughts or pictures then that’s great; simply use the hashtag
#fourthquarter2015 on social media or pop a comment on A Life Of One’s Own Facebook page.

I’ll be doing likewise with additional bits and pieces
between the reflections as this is as much a journey for me as well.  The autumn months pull at my heart strings
like no others.  I feel like they offer
something integral to my A Life Of One’s
Own
vision but I’ve only a hazy sense of why.  I want to learn more, grow more and share
more as we go along.  

So let us begin this movement through the fourth and final
quarter of the year together!  

The reflection for this first week is this introduction
itself.  

The calendar on the wall (or just as likely on our phones)
tells us that it is September, with October almost in view.  Yet how do we know that it is autumn?  

The leaf on the roof of my car signalled the change of
seasons to me, but there are many other indications too.  Let’s spend the week gathering the
signs.  Let’s look around us, in our
homes and outside of them; in the built environment and the natural
environment; in the familiar and the unfamiliar.  How do you know that autumn is here?

Perhaps keep a written record of all the signs you
spot.  Or maybe a mini photography
challenge appeals, capturing the clues in a visual record.  

I like the idea of making it into a game, a bit like ‘I Spy’
only I guess all the answers kind of begin with the same letter – A for autumn!  (You could throw in F for fall, for
variety!).  In my fantasy world where I
am the world’s most amazing junior school teacher, I would play this game with
my class of nine year olds whilst going for nature walks (I have several
different alternate universes within my head; being a junior school teacher is
one of them).

Or maybe craft a poem from the season’s signs.  Acrostics are simple and amusing: make each
line begin with a particular letter, say A-U-T-U-M-N.  

Look for the signs, those you cherish and otherwise.  Don’t feel you have to filter to create a
particular vision of the season, just let your eyes take you where they
will.  And of course use your other
senses too; what are the sounds, smells and sensations of autumn?

As you explore and observe, you may also want to look
within.  What are your signs of
autumn?  Are there any internal clues?  Does your heart and soul respond to the
turning of the year in a particular way?
We’ll be thinking more about this internal response and the metaphorical
meaning of the seasons more in forthcoming weeks.

Let us now take our first step in this journey
together.  I’ll meet you back here next
week but in the meantime hope to see you on the Facebook page or via our
#fourthquarter2015 hashtag.