Time to Hunker Down Again

It didn’t take long, did it? Just as we were all wondering whether we might have time to squeeze in another barbeque, the weather turned and had us all rummaging in the loft for our winter woollies.But I’ve always believed that one of the great advantageous of living in the UK is that we have four proper seasons and a real change of mood. So I usually welcome their turning.

But even for those of us better suited to the wintry chill than to summer humidity (and I’m most certainly one of those), the shift from summer to autumn can seem sudden and harsh. It doesn’t help that, unlike the onset of the other seasons, for many people autumn offers little to look forward to. Although, for me, the way autumn assails the senses with its ever-changing colours and a wind that whips up the leaves in great rustles of sound are perfectly adequate reasons to enjoy a season that sometimes feels like an ending, rather than a beginning.

When I was a little girl each class in our primary school had a nature table. At the start of the school year in September it was full of shells, grains of sand and bits of seaweed from each child’s summer holiday. But by the end of October it was alive with fallen leaves in colours that varied from gold to russet and from copper to crimson.  Ash keys and sycamore ‘helicopters’ sat beside the ever-cherished glossy conkers and my favourites – pretty acorns with their tiny cups.For adults autumn can hold less wonder. The winds leave the gardens that we tended so carefully messy and bare, and the nights are drawing in, the days are darker and often overcast. It’s that loss of daylight that so lowers our spirits.

But I’ve long held the theory that animals are far less affected by the changing of the seasons because they alter their behaviour while humans, because of the busy lives we lead, continue as normal. We wake at the same time, whether the sun is up or not. We go to work, come home again and eat at the same times. And we’d never think of going to bed at sundown in December because we just wouldn’t have time to do the things we need to do. But our ancestors, without access to artificial light, had no choice.Now I’m not suggesting we take a leaf out of our ancestors’ up-and-down-with-the-sun approach, but I do feel strongly that we can make life much more cosy for ourselves as autumn sets in.

At home, for as long as I can remember, we have been marking the turning of the seasons with changes in ornaments and bringing more seasonally-appropriate colours in soft furnishing and so on. Now before you think this sounds all too prissy for words, hear me out. This is nothing compared with what some people do. As you’ll know if you live in the US, seasonal décor is a big thing over there. And in Japan all the pictures and decorative items are changed for each season.But in the UK we think nothing of altering our diets, opting for casseroles, soups and pies as it turns colder.

So why do so few of us make a few adjustments to our homes? Nearly all of us decorate for Christmas – would it hurt to bring a pumpkin inside for autumn?And there’s a way to fight the darkness too. Whenever my family are at home during the colder months there is at least one scented candle alight. And if you’ve not tried it, you’ll be surprised how comforting, welcoming and cosy this is. We light a couple of candles in the fireplace and turn off a couple of lights – so much more natural than sitting under harsh, artificial electric light. 

After all it makes more sense to acknowledge the longer days and the change of mood. To work with the seasons, rather than against them, if you like. It might just help. And if not, well by the time Christmas arrives, you can console yourselves that the days are already getting longer again!