The shortening of days is becoming more apparent, as we move into autumn, here in the UK. The first signs of leaves turning, the swallows gathering ready to migrate, and the falling temperature all show that summer is ending. We move towards the darker time of the year.
I love the colours of autumn, and in a slightly perverse way, I love the sadness of it. Autumn is the time of letting go, the relinquishing of summer, of leaves and colour as we head for the cold, damp greys of winter. It is a reminder that all things must pass, that nothing is forever. Life, beauty and joy can be such fleeting things, and it is essential to embrace them as they come, because nothing lasts and you never know what may slip through your fingers. I believe in making the best of things as they come.
Druidry honours the full range of life and experience – the dark times as well as the light, the cold days as well as the brightness of summer. We honour the lean times as well as the rich ones. I try very hard to relate to when I am in the year, to engage with it and find what is good in it. But at the same time, winters are hard, and this winding down towards colder, darker days I tend to find difficult. But again, there is nothing in my Druidry that requires me to happily celebrate this time of year, only to recognise and to honour the processes both within and without.
For folk who are assured of warmth and ease, the winter can be a snug, cheery time, the weather not a major intrusion on their lives, the central heating protection from temperature. I’ve never had that. I’ve never had a car, and walking, or cycling in the depths of winter, in freezing rain, or with ice on the ground, is really hard. I’ve never had central heating. Keeping a fire in takes work – much less now I have a Tom, but in previous years that’s been a struggle all by itself. Keeping warm, getting clothes dry without a tumble drier, and all the other simple details of living are harder in winter for me. I’m conscious that my ancestors would have had similar issues.
Looking towards the coming winter – my first winter on a boat – I have no idea what to expect. It’s a small space to heat, and it’s inherently snug, but last year the canal froze, and I have no idea what that would be like. I’m trying to relate to that as a potential adventure. Last year, walking beside the frozen canal was beautiful, and I saw a lot of wildlife. Watching the trees change through the autumn will also be beautiful, along with watching the migrant birds come for the winter. There will be much to celebrate and enjoy. The trick, so far as I can tell, is to focus on the good stuff, and to re-shape life around it, rather than trying to use resources to maintain ways of life that do not fit with the prevailing conditions. I’ll shift my working and playing patterns to follow the availability of natural light. I’ll crotchet more in the darker months because I don’t actually need to see to do that. I will also mourn the departure of summer, because that’s part of the process too.
The one thing I am absolutely certain of is that nothing, and no one, should tell us how to feel about anything. I’m very wary of anything that tries to instruct about feelings. Humans do not all feel the same way, and I do not believe there is any one right way to feel in any circumstance. I’m also conscious that some of the time, what religions do is very specifically try and shape how we feel, pushing us towards certain emotional responses to the world. This is also true, sometimes, of Druidry, especially around the solar narrative of the year. We are supposed to feel like trees. We are supposed to be full of energy at midsummer and resting quietly and midwinter.
I am not a tree.
I’m also very wary of anything that prescribes greeting each new thing with unbridled joy and enthusiasm. I do not happen to like the ice. I respect it, but I’m not going to dance with it. Ice does not make me happy, it makes me afraid. I find extreme summer temperatures equally unappealing, I am not a total sun worshipper either. I like the inbetween times, the days that are neither one thing or another. As I honour what happens outside, I also have come to respect what happens inside me as being my own, natural reaction to things, and to hold that response as something I am entitled to. I’m wondering if this means I can sneak a few hours today to honour my inner sloth.