Life. What’s it all about when you get right down to it? I certainly don’t have the answer to that one but I do know that mine has been somewhat hectic over the last couple of weeks and months. We’ve sold our house, moved into a rented house and bought 95 acres of land (no I didn’t miss a decimal point, that is ninety five acres). As some journeys have begun so some have ended, we’ve said goodbye to a home that was built just for us and said hello to a crazy dream, a possible future that we have to create from scratch. Exciting, terrifying, exhausting, exhilarating, all that and more.
At this time of year it doesn’t surprise to me to find change everywhere. Samhain (also known as Halloween round these parts) denotes the end of the old year, the new year beginning with the rebirth of the Sun at the winter solstice. During the time in between we enter a state of awake dreaming where we discover the possibilities of ourselves. We move from the intense phase of harvest to a quieter time as the earth begins to settle making some contemplation, some planning hoping and dreaming, possible. I call these months the Dark Time, not because I find this to be bleak or saddening, quite the opposite. The drawing in of the nights forces us to our hearths and gives us cosy hours to read, think and create. The days are as full as they ever were as we cherish these last weeks of a relatively warm outside, but the longer nights are the perfect time to learn and develop internally after the months of outside work the summer and harvest brings.
For me this Samhain was particularly poignant. My grandfather, the last of my grandparents, passed away after a blessedly short illness. He had a stroke, was admitted to hospital and within two weeks had slipped quietly away in his sleep. I think that part of the reason his passing was so peaceful was that at this time of year the veil between this world and the next is thin, it is easier for crossings to happen and this allowed my Grampa to cross over gently, returning to the arms of those that he has loved. I know my Grandma and my Mum would have been waiting for him, along with a house full of other relatives all chatting loudly around the kitchen table as my Grampa made tea and set out biscuits, occasionally slipping out into the garden for some quiet time in the potting shed or greenhouse.
The days before his passing led me to rediscover so many memories that rushed back with surprising force, moving me back through time to vivid recollections. The smell of earth in a potting shed, the sharp smell of tomato plants warming in a greenhouse, these are two scents I find utterly wonderful right to this day. Walks in the woods, learning about leaf mould and how to take cuttings from unsuspecting home owners who allowed an attractive plant to straggle onto the public highway! That canals are deadly if not respected and that a carpet of green is not always grass, it can be the weeds on water that look as solid as a lawn but will quickly reveal a watery end to any unsuspecting child. That grapes can be grown in Wales, how to draw with correct perspective, what cross hatching is and why it is important.
The fabric that is me has been woven by many I have loved, the lessons they taught often without realising they were teaching. My Grampa was one of those people, reinforcing a love of the garden, of the quiet peace that comes within a potting shed or greenhouse as the rain pop pops on the roof. Creating an appreciation for Art, for the skill involved in creating a picture and the knowledge that we don’t all get to pursue our dreams and passions and that we are lucky if we do.
As the song says ‘time is fleeting’, the moments pass and pass then suddenly years have slipped by, people have slipped away. Like the brush of a feather the bastions of our childhood, of who and why we are reveal themselves as not permanent at all. This moment finds me contemplating so many new beginnings, such extraordinary feats that will define our future selves and I am sad that my Grampa won’t be here to witness it, to see the boys grow into men, to share in this Canadian dream of ours. But I know in my heart that he is where he wants to be, he’s returned to my Grandma his true and only love. His passing was peaceful and gentle surrounded by many who loved him. A circle closed but for him and for me a new adventure begins. Where will it take us? Who knows, but I’m eager to embrace every moment and aim to cherish them and those I love for a long as I can.