If you were to open any of the large books in our house you are very likely to find a collection of old, pressed leaves and flowers squeezed between the pages. I have always had a thing about spotting that bright autumn leaf on the other side of the road and quickly gathering it up to stash away and save. There is something about appreciating those tiny moments of beauty that has always been central to me.
My old encyclopaedias and coffee table books are full of pressed geraniums, sunny daisies, yellow buttercups and purple violas; purple bougenvillia flowers from mediterranean holidays; and red acer leaves and beech leaves turning from green to yellow to brown in quirky stripes and patchwork patterns – to name just a few. I have hung large sycamore leave in garlands around the house like nature’s own bunting, and made cards with a beautiful plum tree leaf fixed in the middle. I get such joy out of these treasures. There is something about connecting with nature outside and inside my house that breathes life into me. Fresh, pressed, festooned around the house, or arranged in a jug – it does not matter. I appreciate the glory of it all. It is good to me. And for me.
But I have realised that this year you will not open a book in my house and find many fresh leaves. I have not walked the extra metre out of my way to pick up that shiny leaf peeking at me from the dirt. My children have started doing this but I seem to have forgotten this year. Forgotten the importance of that moment – that pause – that going out of my way to appreciate. This perhaps says something about the state of my being recently.
So, this morning, when a rare opportunity arose for mum to have the children, I looked out of the window at the bright autumn sun and remembered the call of the open.
I walk up onto the hill – to the field I have always rambled along when I have needed time to think, reflect, pray, churn through things, breathe. Since I was about twelve I have done this. I hear the whispers best when I am out in the open, whilst my legs walk and my mind is pulled heavenward and outward by the high sky. The whispers of my own heart and head; the whisper of Someone bigger.
Baby sleeps in sling at my chest.
I wander the hedgerows collecting things that stand out. I gather, appreciate, take in, hold in my hands, fill my pockets, notice the tiny and the big; the bright and the dull. Different tones. Different shades.
I feel alive again.
There is something about putting myself out in nature that chases away the shadows. A morning doing this is my equivalent of a day at the spa for some.
The bright, green winter wheat pushes towards the sky. And I am reminded that things can grow, even when it feels like your darkest season.
The leaves fall, twirl, skydive and dance out of the sky. They clatter from branch to pavement. And I am reminded that they are not scared to lose their baggage and wait through the winter with the promise of new things to come.
This cycle of nature, the seasons that never forget when its their turn. This rhythm reminds me that there is soul food and beauty to be found in a timely, thoughtful, grounded, simple, rhythmic and liturgical life. I am drawn to this deeply at the moment. I find peace in the quiet place.
I find it hard to hear or think in that other place.
Hard to hear myself or the One who holds all that together.
Noisy, relentless, joyful, messy, boundary-pushing, energetic children are not conducive to this. But I think they need it as much as me. So I will keep pursuing the quiet, spacious place – and will start by collecting one leaf at a time.
ps. There was supposed to be a song recorded to go with this post, and I have been waiting and waiting for the moment to be able to record… but poorly little children, limited sleep, and the madness of moving house seem to have all been working against me. This is my current season. Messy children, messed up schedule, messy creativity. No matter. I shall get there soon, and you will have to wait a bit longer!