Monday 5 October 2009

Erica’s New Year and The Leaping Dolphin

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.



  1. Do so wish I could feel a sense of newness about autumn. Have tried for years and it just gets harder as I get older because I dread winter. At the moment I'm singularly lacking in any sort of inspiration or creativity. Spring is the time when I am full of energy and plans and looking forward- because summer is coming and I am most definitely a warm weather being. (Sometimes wonder if I was actually born on the other side of the world and landed in the northern hemisphere by mistake . . .)

  2. I really appreciate what you say, Boots. I had to dig deep to assemble these thoughts because really I am like you. After the gourd-plump Keats autumn come those dark and blustery short days. And by December single days close to an eye of light. Hate the dark. The optimism of the 'first day of term' used to alleviate that, but there is no such day in the free-lance life.
    What there is, though, is a novel three quarters through that doesn't care about the dark, or the cold, but says 'take care of me, take care of me!' Being a woman, hardwired to 'care', I respond.
    I'll tell you one thing though. I couldn't START a novel in Autumn! Spring's the time for that, for all the reasons you outline in your lovely post.
    Last year I went to France to start this novel and its early shoots thrived in the light, the heat and the sun.
    Sorry about the length here, They tell me posts should be short - which shows, though I love it, thatI am not a natural blogger...
    PS Could no longer call you by a number...

  3. You can call me Boots. Boots I like! Down to earth and all that. Anyway, am reassured that you and your creative impulse thrive in the light. With the onset of the current grey, wet, miserable weather, my creative impulse has decided to hibernate.

    PS I don't think that you should worry about the length of your blog posts - or comments, come to that. Just write to a length that feels comfortable and natural for you. I've been blogging for three years now (although sometimes feel as if it has been for ever); my posts were longish to begin with and, as I found my own blogging rhythm, they settled into a slightly shorter form. That said, my blogging brain is devoid of ideas at the moment so all is silence.

  4. I am pondering the wonderful idea of a 'blogging rhythm'... I think I have a 600 word counter in one corner of my brain...

  5. I LOVE autumn, and like you, respond to it in terms of the academic year. From all those years of going to school—my college years seemed to last forever, probably because I loved that time so much!—and then my own kids and their school days brought back the wonderful newness of the season (for me).

    I love "Ode to Autumn."

  6. I love autumn and winter, I think because our summers can be so hot and bleaching, I associate summer with a dry shrivelling destruction. So autum and winter are the seasons I enjoy most, and associate most strongly with the creative and imaginative. When the wind is raging I appreciate the cosy security of the indoors. Very much enjoyed reading this post.



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