The gift of the season

By Andrée Murphy

MY youngest daughter was told she needed to be in from playing at eight o’clock this weekend because it is dark now at that time. I said it with a sigh, as the nights are drawing in and our days becoming shorter.

“I love the dark nights,” she said with a smile. My youngest son, who is 16, piped in: “Yeah, so do I.”

And all at once I was reminded that I used to feel exactly the same as them. I loved it when the autumn started gently pushing away the excitement of summer, and bringing in the quiet of winter.

I loved coming home from school just as it was getting dark, the trees silhouetted against the sky in a way only autumn light allows, with my warm coat pulled tight around me and a scarf nestled between my chin and lips, down to the bottom of my neck. I loved the smell of lit fires and evening dinners being cooked in every home filling my nostrils as I walked. I knew my mum would always be there with my dinner waiting.

At night lying in the front of the fire with my school books spread out in front of me I would be always staring at the flames jumping and playing in the grate, singing and hissing. My Gaeilge grammar never held my attention nearly as long as watching the battle of turf embers holding their own against the burning sparks from the wood.

It is as though the magic of autumn persuades us to face the connections of life, accepting inevitable decline in the full and certain knowledge that spring will come, but first we face the dark. But the decline is beautiful with autumn mists spreading a mystic grace across the land and colours that ask us to stop and decide which shade of red and gold we love most.
The turn in the season means we soon will join with friends and family for Oiche Shamhna, and then Christmas. I can remember how their prospect caused chest-tightening gasps of excitement in my childhood.

As I get older I find the words I heard from my betters were absolutely true. Time gets faster, years fly by and the seasons seem to flit past. When once seasons’ miraculous change was greeted with excitement, now it is taken for granted. I had fallen into getting annoyed by the dark nights. I hate driving in the dark, especially when it is raining. I resent leaving my office in the dark and having to make a dinner in the dark. I have felt weary and tired at the idea of getting through winter.

I was reminded by my children this week to pay attention to the gift of our seasons. To slow down and appreciate the joys of nature’s changes. I thank God for our good health, to be able to walk in the autumn air, amongst crunchy fallen leaves, watching the last swifts and swallows darting before they leave our shores, and witness the magnificent display of the trees getting ready for their winter rest. Truly nature’s gift to our souls.

I was woken from the mundane busyness of everyday routine which had risked my missing a full season of life to once again appreciate my love of autumn and the wonder of childhood.