The First Frost

sturdy boots on the first frostYesterday I woke and found I was cold. Properly cold for the first time since March. I looked out of the bedroom window to see grass laced with white icing, a bright blue sky and birds all puffed up and fluffy, perched in almost bare branches.

By the time I dressed and took my coffee outside the grass had become soggy, the nasturtiums were still edged with icy frills, but the frost was over and the promise of winter seemed a long way off.

Autumn is my favourite season, and this gentle nudging towards winter is best of all. I know that not everyone agrees there is beauty in this season. I’m reminded of  a piece I read  by Emma Mitchell in Standard Issue magazine, in which she wrote:

I don’t relish fossicking for my long johns in my knicker drawer, bulk buying ChapStick or feeling icy seepage through a hole in my welly. Winter can jog on.

While I sympathise with the cruelties of harsh winter weather (I suffer from frizzy hair, chapped lips and cold toes), I find myself  looking forward to the cold months. I like to hunker down with wool blankets, hot drinks and heavy, hard backed books. This is a time to re – read old favourites by the fire, light candles and to be honest, I find myself spending more time outdoors than in the height of summer, just so I can appreciate that sensation of slowly warming up and watching my cold breath and my glasses demisting.

In the garden there is plenty to do, so always a reason to be outdoors. Ever the optimist, I plant bulbs for spring. I pick dried  seed heads and cut branches for the house. I much prefer the russet reds and oranges of autumn to the blousy pinks and purples of high summer.  I walk in a circuit, inspecting each flower bed and border. It is the last day of October and  the grass is still growing, but too wet to cut. The roses cling on, passing on the baton to late flowering clematis and winter jasmine (Jasminum sieboldianum). There are still cotoneaster berries, turning deep red and still plump, the fluffy heads of Bill MacKenzie are tangled and silky reminders of a summer filled with bright yellow clematis flowers. I pick up stray branches of silver birch to use as kindling and plan my day.

I begin to feel the damp, cold air. It’s time to head indoors, pour fresh coffee and begin the day’s admin of emails to read, bills to pay, commissions to plan. Books don’t write themselves and food must be bought. I feel the need to bake a cake, a sticky, stodgy gingerbread or fruit cake. The kind of cake you cut in thick slices and eat in front of the fire with scented candles burning. Yes, if you visit me in winter you will be handed cake and a steaming mug of tea almost before you’ve had a chance to unwind your scarf or kick off your shoes.

I  relish “peak autumn”, dried and curling leaves, clear blue skies, low winter sun and an excuse to wrap, snuggle and indulge my maternal instinct to provide warming stews, hearty broths and stodgy puddings.  I welcome the cold, the damp and the dark.  I refuse to be sad that summer is over, or to resent autumn as the wet, soggy poor relation or to resist the dark of winter. I embrace autumn, I welcome winter. I look forward to scented paper Whites in dishes on window ledges.

It feels rebellious to speak of autumn with so much love when others are complaining bitterly about the cold, the damp and the dark. So, feel free to remind me of this post  on  January mornings when my hands are numb from scraping ice  and I complain bitterly about cracked lips, dry hair and damp washing that refuses to dry ….

 

Photos credit: Sturdy Boots on Frost: Llum Isart

 

 

Mornings Like These

The starlings gatherI’m writing this, sitting in the garden with a mug of coffee. I’m watching the starlings feasting on the autumn berries. They haven’t noticed me yet. The sky is vivid blue. The kind of blue you only see in early autumn, when the sun sits low in the sky and the cold seems to sharpen everything. That sky is one of the reasons I love autumn so much.

I haven’t written on here for weeks.  I’ve been feeling “disconnected”, posting photos on Instagram, sharing on twitter and so I can’t think why I haven’t sat here and typed a blog post. Maybe there has just been too much to do. A new book to organise, clearing the greenhouse for autumn, family stuff or maybe just nothing to say. Which is OK. Perhaps the space between posts is evidence of a  where life is lived and experienced without the need to record and to reflect. A companionable silence, like the ones between friends and family, where nothing needs to be said out loud.

But I’m back, feeling the need to share this experience of autumn’s beauty with you all, knowing that you will nod your heads, acknowledging the beauty of autumn won’t last and we must relish the colour and the sunlight  before winter forces us indoors to wrap in layers and long for spring.

teasel seed heads.

Sometimes I think I love seed heads more than the flowers

These autumn mornings, sitting in the garden, watching the birds are my favourites. There is so much colour and abundance, not like the blousy over exuberance of summer. The goldfinches are feasting on thistledown, the stems hardly take their weight and they perform all kinds of acrobatics. Blue tits squabble over the bird feeders, or spend hours in and out of the clematis, picking off grubs and seeds. If I sit here long enough, the robin will start to scold me, he expects me to turn over a piece of rough soil to reveal treasures. Last week I spread fresh compost on the empty veg beds and he spent hours picking out tasty morsels.

cotoneaster berries

These cotoneaster berries, so bright and beautiful and loved by the birds

It feels good to see the starlings back, huge flocks this year. They have almost stripped the rowan, now they are competing with the blackbirds for the deep red cotoneaster berries and the coal black berries of a shrub I have forgotten the name of! I managed to  take a photo of them. They are so easily spooked, flying into the air at the slightest movement, calling to each other, regrouping and then settling again. Their plumage shimmering as it catches the sun. Now, just as I look up from the screen I see a flash of blue. Two jays chase each other into the hedge, I haven’t seen them for months and this tiny glimpse makes my day. I’m never sure why it’s the colourful birds that cause me such excitement.

Soon I must head indoors, pack a bag for a weekend away, attend to emails and finish a long promised letter to a dear friend, but for now I’m going to just sit here, switch off the laptop and enjoy the moment.

 

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  • Happy knitmas! My Mother in Law has unpacked her knitted decorations, here are the three kings, part of the nativity scene which grows every year and now fills the window ledge!
#knittersofinstagram #knitmas #knitting #handmadechristmas #knittednativity Throwback to last December's family outing to Chester Zoo lanterns, a beautiful night. Ah, we knew how to Christmas in the 1960's. Missing my lovely Mum today - and love that we're both wearing outfits she made (crimplene, whatever happened to you???) The fabulous @wildzucchinis getting festive at Cockermouth Food Festival today xx
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