The night before last we had a great wind. Around the house the trees were bending and swaying in a wild dance of their own. The next day the wind still raged. A. went off to play rugby with his fan club and I stayed here, a restless victim of the wind, watching the drying leaves being torn from the branches and lying on the grass like a neap tides on the lawn. Ah yes! The first quarter of the the moon.
I tried to work – to write, to read, to draw – to no avail. And though the day was bright, the raging wind forbade me outside pleasures. My own restlessness in the wind reminds me of when I was teaching small children who were wild as feral kittens on windy days. I thought this was my notion until I read that it is a documented fact that children are harder to control on windy days. On wet and cold days they welcome the warm fug of the classroom, but on windy days they are reminded of their hidden wildness and act up to it.
Then at last my windy day was brightened by an email from my writer friend Erica, about an edit she was doing on her novel. She says blithely, Autumn is my New Year, when I want to spring clean and create and produce new ideas. So I can set to work…
Autumn has always been a powerful signal in the year for me. The cycle from school child to college student, and then schoolteacher to college lecturer always started with that emotional see-saw of September - half full of fear, half drenched with excited anticipation: a new arena for stress, balanced by a pristine, clean slate. And then I experienced these feelings at one remove as my children joined this same cycle. New uniforms, new protractors, new backpacks and new misgivings: I remember it too well.
In more recent years the swashbuckling freedom of a more free-lance working life has had its own pleasures, its own stresses and its own dynamic cycles of production: its own planting season, its own harvest. And yet I still run my working life on a September to September academic diary and still talk about ‘having lunch with my friend Judith once a term’.
But at least Autumn – windy or not - sets running like a hare in my mind one of the few poems I have off by heart:
That Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eaves run….
John Keats’ poem Ode to Autumn is as skilfully engineered as a key in a well oiled lock, as organically perfect as a leaping dolphin: he continues to be a challenge to all poets who have followed him.
Wasn’t it Keats who wrote to his brother, saying … the great beauty of poetry is that it makes every place interesting? And this reminds me of Mrs Wood, my art tutor, who told me once you can draw, Miss Wetherill, you will never be bored.
So, even with the wind, there is mellow fruitfulness about.