Wednesday, 22 October 2014

Dreams and dead things

I don't like autumn. I know, every time I say that (and I have mentioned it before) there's a collective groan from the autumn-lovers.  They speak of vibrant oranges and yellows and reds and the exhilaration of kicking their way through piles of gorgeousness on brisk, bright mornings and they eat pumpkin and make chutney and so on.

I don't do any of that. Today the rain keeps on coming down and it's mid-morning but still hasn't become properly light. It's dank and miserable. Everywhere the world is getting darker. Death is all around me. The few leaves that weren't blasted into next week by yesterday's storms are swirling into brown drifts. The plants need cutting back to clear away the dead stalks, spent seed pods and rotting foliage, and I'm not tempted to go and do some gardening.

Autumn is a time of decay, shrinking, dying. 

I sit here with both hands round a cup of coffee and I listen to the rain on the roof and contemplate the long months until the days start to get longer. 

I know, it happens every year. You'd think I'd be used to it. Perhaps I should stare at a white screen for a while until I get my share of daylight. Alternatively perhaps I should shut up and look on the bright side. 

It'll soon be Christmas. 

Anyway, I think I'm growing up. I've realised something about autumn. 

Leaves are falling from the trees onto my flower beds. They will eventually make a blanket over all the sleeping shrubs and bulbs and the blanket will help keep moisture in and protect the ground from frosts until it slowly composts down into the soil. The drifts of fallen leaves will dissolve into leaf mould, leaving my heavy, clay-ey soil richer and conditioned. 

Underground, I imagine the roots and bulbs snuggling down for a winter sleep and taking on board the nourishment from the soil around them. Undisturbed by footballs and footsteps, the garden rests. Takes a deep breath and sighs. Relaxes before the brighter sun, warmer temperatures and longer days start to signal that it's wake-up time. Spring rise-and-shine time. 

But autumn is for snuggling down. Putting on the heating and digging out the woolly socks.

The tree lets the leaves fall to protect itself from the relative dryness of winter - it's a survival mechanism. The dead stuff that falls and decays and is so often the focus of my autumn grumpiness is essential to the cycle of the plants in the garden. 

Things fall and die. As a result of their death and decay, something new can grow.

And if that's not a life lesson, I don't know what is. 

For a long time now I've felt as if I'm stalled. I want to move forward and yet I've had no idea which way was forward. To step out in faith without knowing exactly what that meant. I had some ideas that came to nothing. God has asked me to wait, and I have not waited graciously.

I'm ready for the new growth, that moment in spring when you look around you as if you were seeing for the first time and suddenly there are bright, impossibly green shoots everywhere you look. I want that. 

Rapid growth, dramatic development, shoots and buds and blooms. Colour, not darkness. Not the leaf-mould, mulchy, sodden ground wait, wait... it's a slow process. 

Maybe it's all a slow process. Maybe there's a place where dreams go to die and as they fall, limp and lifeless, they start to enrich the soil around them. Perhaps God is saying that something has to die for something to be born. The dead thing isn't lost, wasted, useless; it's a catalyst for something new and beautiful. I didn't realise that my plans were the leaf-mould of the future and it has been no fun to watch them curl up and slowly turn to compost, but I believe His way is best. 

His dreams are bigger than mine. 

So the soil of my life is being forked over by the Gardener. He's digging in some of the leaf-mould as things die and decay. He's digging deep, and it's not comfortable. If I am the soil, then my instinct is to stay dense and full of clay, but things don't easily grow in soil like that. The good stuff needs to be worked in until the whole texture of the soil changes. Until it is transformed into something fertile. 

Who'd have thought that the good stuff turns out to be the stuff that gets thrown away? 

So I am soil, and I am in need of nourishment. I am claggy clay, but partially leaf-mould and I am waiting. I am changing, slowly, imperceptibly, into soil in which God will make something grow. 

All in His good time. 

It turns out that there's a reason for autumn. 


  1. Lovely thoughts; thank you. Sorry you're not a fellow leaf kicker! I did that yesterday on the way down to pick up my kids from school, and I'm sure the mothers behind me thought I was crazy.

    1. Thanks Amy. I bet they didn't. I bet they thought, 'how wonderful!' I know I would have done. Thanks for reading and leaving a lovely comment. x

  2. Helen, you have found some positive thoughts, even though you sound so depressed at the start. I so know that feeling when it is dark at midday, and all day. And the cheerful leaf kickers almost imply "I am a better Christian, 'cos I love this autumn thing!' even if that's not what they realise they sound like. I wonder if you have read Adrian's letter yet? He is a different kind of autumn lover I suspect: he has depth, and alongside the dread and depression and sadness he kind of gets over it but saying, yes, that is a true view of the world, but there is also God and somehow knowing God encourages us in dark times. Autumn makes me incredibly sad as like you it is the precursor, I know, to the cold, grey, biting weather than takes its time to climb back out, and meanwhile it is all about being indoors in electric light and it is quite horrible mostly! Horrible thick layers of warm clothing, and a winter coat: vile! Whatever ... it is indeed visually stunning and one is pulled in half between the 2 things: the awfulness and the beauty. Let's try and get through it, and somehow deal with the cheerfulness of those who don't mind the grey weather. :-) btw, have you abandoned plans for a novel after all? I hope not ... do you do poems? Poems are really good for sorting thoughts, esp sad thoughts and esp poems with rhythm and rhyme.

  3. Even as an autumn lover, I can relate to this post. There's always a sense of both letting go and waiting that comes with this season.

  4. Helen, this is beauty and truth:"The dead thing isn't lost, wasted, useless; it's a catalyst for something new and beautiful." It is worth the dying back to allow new life to spring forth. And you exemplify it here with the sad and deadened emotions at the start leading to a more positive, optimistic, faith-building word to conclude with.
    Thank you for sharing so honestly. It's one of the many things I treasure about your writing. And I am convinced God-given dreams never die. They may abate for a season but come alive again in His due time. So will yours, my friend, so will yours. Hold on to that thought through the dismal days when all seems dull and frozen. For despite how it may seem, we can be reassured that Aslan is on the move and our hopes come alive again as Spring returns.


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