Tag Archives: beauty

Autumnal Beauty

Giant Hogweed umbrel

Giant Hogweed umbrel

Autumn has to be one of my favourite times of the year.

I love the smell of the earth as leaves fall and vegetation begins to die back. The wet depth of the heavy dews, carpeting the world in sparkling iridescent diamonds. The liquid golden light that touches everything, but especially autumnally-coloured leaves, with syrupy fire. The crisp cool mornings that open out into gloriously warm, blue domed days. Screaming winds and driving rains that send you scurrying for the comfort of a warm blanket and a steaming cup of tea. 

Additionally, it is still a fecund time of the year, with flowers still blooming in a last gasp farewell to the summer. Preparations are also underway for the winter, and for next year’s spring.

Ivy berries , which will darken as winter approaches

Ivy berries , which will darken as winter approaches

Next year's catkins

Hazel tree with the small nubs of next year’s catkins showing

It is also the time of year to look for fungi. We are on heavy clay here, clay which usually bakes solid in a summer such as the one we have just had. Last year, however, was incredibly soggy, so the earth still gives underfoot, even after this year’s heatwave. Indeed, in some places it still squelches, especially after a good night’s rain. These conditions are, apparently, just what the fungi around here were craving. Everywhere you look, everywhere you thought to place your foot, there you will find mushrooms. Large mushrooms, small mushrooms, each with its own weird beauty. I am not an expert on fungi, and therefore leave them firmly where they are. This is why I have made no attempt at identifying the mushrooms below, as so many types look like other types. Poisonous ones look like edible, or the other way around. Indeed, one particular edible mushroom commonly found in the UK is known as the Deceiver, simply because it looks so alike other types of fungus! If you do wish to collect wild mushrooms for consumption, I would locate an expert forager who can teach you what to look for, as not even the best text book can convey every condition of growth safely.

FungiField mushroomsShaggy ink capphoto 4

As you can see, a wondrous diversity and a quite striking beauty. Not surprising, as there are approximately 15,000 types of fungus to be found in the UK alone. A lifetime’s study for the dedicated mycologist, all waiting on his or her doorstep.

There are also a few late butterflies still to be seen, though they are getting fewer and fewer in number now. Here is a Small Tortoiseshell (Aglais urticae) feeding on a late chive blossom. Interestingly, the species name of urticae comes for their preference for nettles (genus Urtica) for laying their eggs.

photo 1

All in all, this time of year is magical in its diversity. Beauty is sharper, clearer than in the more opulent summer. Soon, the scent of woodfires will start to perfume the air, the first frosts will silver the world and the bare, beautiful bones of the landscape will be seen. A season of pleasures will be over, but with the promise of yet more pleasures to come.

What autumnal beauties will you find?


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Filed under Seasonality, Simple pleasures

Those Simple Little Pleasures…

…Or, Why Little Things to Great Things Lead

Too cute!

It seems that everybody these days wants to be happy. Which, of itself, isn’t a bad goal. It’s just not one that I think is sustainable. 
 What?! I hear you cry!
Before you switch off in disgust or start yelling at the screen, let me explain myself.

To my way of thinking, happiness is a big event in your life. It is a swelling of emotion from a constant background to a peak – usually associated with a particular moment or event – and then, inevitably, it subsides. Leaving the person who experienced that happiness looking for another hit. This is why I believe that although happiness has its place – and a very important place – in life, it cannot sustain either the spirit or the person from day to day.

Enter simple pleasures stage left.

Day to day, I aim to be content. Not exactly a fashionable attitude in this ‘must have the best’ world of ours, but an eminently sustainable one. Contentment is the background radiation to my life against which the surges of happiness and joy stand out in technicolour beauty; it is the constant that allows me to experience life in full, never dreading disappointment or the fear that I could never experience such joy, such emotion again for I know, day by day, that what I have, what I do, what I feel is enough. It is pleasure taken in being alive, in the simple pleasures of life, in nurturing my soul on a daily basis. It is the blanket of comfort I throw over my days knowing that if I am troubled or sick, in pain or down, that it will pass and I will once more be myself.

I never realised, until I deliberately thought about it, how many simple pleasures I have in life. Or how each little pleasure, stitched together into a larger whole, provides layers of comfort, of direction, of tiny joys burning into the fire of continual contentment.

The first sip of a really good cup of tea. The fragrant waft of steam from the open oven door when the loaf of bread is ready. Noticing something new whilst travelling a route taken every day. Discovering a new author. Taking notes as I read. The way polyphonic music both moves and soothes my soul simultaneously. Opening a new magazine and wondering what new lands I will journey to. That sudden lift of the heart on witnessing a bird take flight. Watching waves crash against the shore during a winter storm. Reading a cookery book, dreaming of the dishes I will someday conjure.

None of these things, taken singly, amount to much. Their power lies in the moment, that tiny little lift to the spirit that is then maintained by noticing the next small thing. This is the crux of contentment for me, the ritual of noticing the small graces of my existence and of acknowledging them, however silently.

Unless we keep an eye out for our little pleasures, they pass us by. We gulp the tea without tasting it, the steam from the oven is merely inconveniently hot, the route travelled just another task in the daily grind, the book or magazine just an hour’s diversion, the waves crashing on the shore only noise and wetness. Beauty unseen, joys dampened, comfort disdained.

Treasure the little moments, for they truly lead to great things.

Treasures hide where they may. Search for yours today.

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