The end of the harvest

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Autumn is in full, deep-hued glory and Samhain is very close: the end of nature’s year. As a winter soul, a wool obsessive, introvert, candle-appreciator, hearth-craver and hot chocolate enthusiast who likes wearing slippers and hats, this time of year gives me a tingle through my veins that brings my heart out in smiles. An end means that a beginning will follow – this will be nature’s New Year when life and the green of the land is renewed. But first there is the in-between time of winter, where the earth slows down and rests – and calls us to do the same.

To rest from the hard work of the harvest. We harvest so many things in our lives: projects that we work on, courses of study that we undertake, books that we read, goals that we strive towards, transitions in our lives like a moving home or a new pregnancy. And of course many of us do harvest from the land and from our gardens. I think that people often do not realise how many gardens they tend and nurture.

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I have harvested a lot of learning this year, a lot of it related to a medical journey that we have been one with one of my children. I am yet to harvest the conclusion to some big decisions I have been having to weigh up. But it feels like my harvest basket is one filled with useful and nourishing skills, support and knowledge to take forwards. I hold these to my heart in deep gratitude and feel a sense of a cycle completing, ready to cast the seeds from its harvest into the myriad fields ahead.

Nature’s year is closing now, the harvest – of this phase at least – nearly in. I feel excited about where those seeds might land, and about just how they might grow. ♡

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Babymoon

Six precious weeks of dreamy days and drift-y nights, of pleasant surreality and an enchantment I don’t want to wear off. Six exhausting weeks where, in this eclipse of “normal life”, hours often float in tender slow motion between the mugs of hot chocolate.

Six chaotic weeks of adjusting to a new pace of life – or rather, a pace I danced before (but rather differently – I didn’t also have another child’s needs to meet then). A pace where Leaving The House is an epic (and sometimes abandoned!) mission. Where, once out, the usual timescales of How Long Our Errands Will Take are totally unpredictable. It’s an enriching challenge to my routine-loving personality that most of my days (and nights) are currently quite unpredictable.

Six precious weeks of being in the constant company of my baby. There’s something magical about a newborn: some kind of holiness surrounding them, a spell they spin over the room they’re in. I think that’s why people so want to visit, to touch them, to hold them. I feel it a sacred honour to be in physical contact with this boy most of the time, under his innocent spell. Even if I do whinge about my back ache, and worry about being enough for him and his brother.

I’ve been held, in these blink-and-you-miss-’em weeks, by the beautiful love I’m surrounded by. Mama friends have gifted cake, soup and help with my eldest son. My own mother amazingly gifted us two weeks where she stayed with us, helping out. Other friends have gifted reassurance on the harder days. All these things have enabled me to focus on my family; on our transition and on the welcoming of our newest member.

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There seem to be various practices centering around the six weeks postpartum period. From Ecuadorian closing the bones ceremonies to  traditional “confinements”. From Ayurvedic massage and dietary practices to contemporary six-week check-ups with the doctor. Of course, nothing suddenly changed on the day that my son completed six weeks in the world. He didn’t suddenly snap into a routine. I didn’t suddenly “get” the new dance required of me.

I certainly didn’t start drinking less hot chocolate.

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Emerging

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Over winter, I kind of retreated.

Darkness, stillness, inwardness, rest, quiet and alone-ness: I welcomed and sought out these wintry things, mentally creating a sort of birthing cave that I could nest down in. As January trod its way into February I craved those things more, my husband supporting me – with a generous heart – to make time for them.  I rarely looked at the ‘net or the news. I did a fair bit of sewing and knitting.

As Imbolc reminded me of the season subtly starting its shift from winter into spring, I focussed a lot on that imminent shift from being pregnant to having another child, our family life shifting from being three to being four. I feel that taking the time out – at that very unique time – to connect with my body and my baby, was an important part of the journey towards birth, and helped protect my strength and focus for that rite.

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Around Imbolc, we had some wild storms here in Bristol, UK. Below, you can see that my son put on our nature table one of his Paddington Bear’s welly boots to remind us of all the rain and how we were often wearing our wellies!

 

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I felt a little stormy as well sometimes; a bit swept and batted between trusting and doubting my ability to birth my child safely and naturally this time. I tried to connect with the beautiful energies of new life emerging – the crocuses and daffodils opening, the leaves unfolding, the light returning. I witnessed this annual miracle in the woods that we frequently visit, and in the gardens and parks my day-to-day life takes me past. I reminded myself that, as part of nature, my body likewise had the power to open and unfold to bring forth the gorgeous new life waiting in there.

But I also know that nature isn’t always perfect. I had quite a traumatic birth with my first child and part of my healing from that came in that realisation. I can sow a dozen pumpkin seeds from the same packet or plant, grow them and plant them out under the same conditions, and a few of them may not germinate – or the young plants may die or the pumpkins not thrive. Things are sometimes beyond our control (which I sometimes find very difficult). But I offered up my sense of unity and my trust… even if some days it was a little hard to feel it.

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A gift from my metaphorical birthing cave was the discovery that chanting and singing often quiets my mental chatter and worrying. I wonder if my family got a little bored of hearing some of those chants A LOT! If they did, they’ve been too sweet to say. This one was my favourite, introduced to me by my lovely yoga teacher. We sung it as a class and that joining of hearts and voices was incredibly special.

More gifts were in store: a long but rewarding labour with gentle, respectful midwives; a safe and natural birth not very far off our plan…

…and the beautiful, magical, awesome prize of our second little boy, Ethan. Here he is! I’m over the moon! And feeling so very, very blessed.

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I’ve not actually got round to planting any seeds in our garden yet, having been a little busy with the precious tasks of feeds, nappies, cuddles and doing much gazing in awe. But there are many “seeds” that I’ve brought from my “cave” in the form of discoveries, lessons, memories and things that have been healed and renewed. I hope to carefully nurture these “seeds” with what they need as they grow, to enjoy and benefit from what they become and to always hold gratitude in my heart for them.

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The beautiful book is Luna Moon Hare by Wendy Andrew: paintingdreams.co.uk

 

As, of course, I look forward to doing with my sons. ♥ ♥ ♥

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A new season

One morning last week brought the first hint of frost to my part of Bristol. Just a teasingly light touch of it on some of the roofs of the streets that surround mine. Winter’s first little stroke, at the end of a grey and chillier week, where more leaves seem to be gracing the ground than the trees now. Autumn’s crispness is turning to a wintery sogginess – in those leaves and in the air. The soil is heavily soggy, clinging to our boots. Damp clings to my coat and condensation to my windows in the mornings. We adjust our routine to factor in putting on more clothes when leaving the house, to get laundry off the line earlier, to draw the curtains before dinner and to spending less time in the garden. We eat more soup. I write in my journal more.

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I also feel a shift in my own season, entering the third trimester of my pregnancy round about now. The changes to my body tell me that it’s time to sit a little differently, to sleep and eat a little differently, to adjust how I move and how I lift. To make time to be pregnant – for yoga, for breath work, for just sitting talking to the baby and gently poking my bump whilst it pokes me back. To slow my pace. It’s easy to try to fight this, expecting the same of ourselves whatever the “season” our lives our in (for example, when we’re ill, when we’re menstruating, when we’ve just had a baby, when we’re menopausal). Those around us – and wider society – may perpetuate this disconnection and the lack of opportunity to honour these fluctuations and these rhythms. There’s pressure to just put on a brave face, dose up with painkillers and carry on with all your normal jobs and tasks.

I’m trying to listen to what these new seasons are calling me to do.