Reflections on unsettled times

It is October; the leaves are turning gold and brown and russet, drifting down to carpet the floor in the woods.

The rain drums on the roof, the kettle hisses on the stove, I am half way through a 700 page novel. Wind has shaken the pine cones off the trees and the wet has sprouted new shoots of wheat from the spilled grain in the chicken run. Mornings are later and evenings are earlier, but the sun is warm, my raincoat is dry, my thickest woolly socks and hats are biding their time. No frost yet. No bare trees. We are in transition.

I don’t have a neat theme for today’s post, and as I cast about for what I would share on the blog today, it came to me – that’s exactly what this time of year is.

Reflections on unsettled times

We talk about “thinning the veil” at Halloween, in a few day’s time, about the lines between the living and the dead, this world and the other, becoming temporarily blurry. Wherever you stand on the otherworld, there’s no denying that at this time of year the taboos become weaker; we allow ourselves to think about mortality, to enjoy the thrill of skeletons and skulls, knowing that one day that will be us. Will be the ones we love. The frisson of remembering that all of this is transitory.

And so there’s a messiness, an unravelling of the certainty we draw around ourselves at other times. Even September’s sharp-pencilled back to school feeling has a ruled-line clarity about it. Now, I’m not so sure. We’re betwixt and between summer and winter, warm and cold, plans and holidays, and it’s not always pretty.

Sometimes it’s chaotic, and uncertain, and unclear.


My week’s been a particularly up-in-the-air one. Our little dog was taken unexpectedly ill, recovering just as swiftly, to the incredulity of the vets who had prepared us very seriously for the likelihood – the probability – of euthanasia. Now he’s back at home, and all is well, and I feel as though life as I knew it had been tossed up in the air, hanging suspended for a day or two, and now is slowly returning to earth.

Everything is the same, and everything is different, and I’m trying to allow myself to embrace that unsettled feeling. To be gentle with myself because this is an unsettled time, a time when the landscape we’ve known all summer – the shade of the trees, the gentle flow of the river, the long days and hot sun – is replaced by something else. Our land wears a different garb, reveals itself to be colder, spikier, more powerful than we have seen in the quiet months. An unfriendlier place to be.

I come back to one of my favourite quotes, from Pema Chodron:

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is that things don’t really get solved. They come together and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. It’s just like that. The healing comes from letting there be room for all of this to happen: room for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”

I make room for all of this.