SFN Journal – Autumn Almanac

Introduction – the turning year

When planning some writing, there is nothing worse than sitting down to start a project, and staring at a blank white page! It can really stifle the creative thought process. Thankfully, today my page is far from blank. My inspiration has travelled forward with me thirteen years, from the days when I first began exploring my love of both words and language, and the natural world. We moved home in April, and it was a big move; that first break from childhood home to independence. 5 months on and we are still sifting through the contents of cupboards and cardboard boxes. It was during one sorting session that I discovered a folder of writing, a nature diary that I had compiled back in 2004, aged 12 years, inspired by my favourite season. The pages recount my experiences and nature sightings from the beginning of August, right through harvest time, up to the winter solstice in December. Between the paragraphs are litterings of ‘copy-and-paste’ images from the Internet, and the writing itself is occasionally studded with the odd grammatical or spelling error. Flicking through the pages, my shutter button finger itches to reach for my camera and I mentally edit the wording as I read.

 

Back in the present day, the calendar has ticked past midsummer, and officially the hours of daylight are shortening, despite the high noon sun. We have waited so long, through the anticipation days of spring, for summer to arrive, that we have almost missed it. Already we are halfway through July, and the year is turning. Perhaps it is time to slow down, to pause, to go for long walks and purposeless strolls, and take a moment or a few simply to appreciate the best that the year has to offer before it withers under the cold hand of winter winds.

Dusk over Sussex farmland

The old religions and cultures had markers for just this purpose, points to hold us still for a moment just long enough remind us of the passing of time and its value. These Celtic and pre-Christian festivals and celebrations bisected and quartered the year, each date and section having its own particular significance. In the northern hemisphere, around August 1st is Lammas (also called, Lughnasadh or other variations), the first harvest festival of the year, just as the first fruits begin to ripen. This was traditionally the time that the first wheat harvest would be cut and participants of the festivals would bring a loaf of bread to share, made from the first batch of wheat grains from that season.

From Lammastide, the season runs a course of four lunar months, through other harvest festivals and year markers including the autumn equinox (also called Mabon) and Samhain, culminating in the Winter Solstice around December 21st.

Although not personally a practitioner or advocate of any particular religious way, I feel it seems appropriate to acknowledge the neat way these pagan festivals fit around and section off the part of the year that captivates me with such fascination and inspiration.

After thirteen years, it must surely be time to venture out again into the woods and fields and rediscover the delights of harvest time, to write new words inspired by those of the 12 year old that penned that first nature diary.

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