Shamanic September

September already. How soon the seasons pass.
Harvest time, fruits of the earth. Our spirits warm with the russet colours outside. I took the dog for a run over the fields this morning. Wind-frenzied trees could not dislodge raucous crows, shy jays, and their more cocksure magpie cousins. Though these are the early days, there is definitely a sense of being on the cusp of autumn.
Soon we will see the squirrels working overtime among the toadstools and wild flowers, the martins, swallows and other migrants gathering to make the long journey back to African shores.
Much to my wife’s distress, daddy long legs seem to be everywhere. One got in as I went out with the dog (again) last night, as my better half was busy preparing a meal for the next day. I said “Don’t harm it, I will catch it when I get back in”. 
On my return she said, apologetically, “I’m sorry I had to kill it-it was ferocious”.
Lions. Tigers. Sharks. Daddy long legs. Ferocious.
I’ve always been an outdoor person. I’ve always been moved by nature, the landscape, and the elements. Maybe that is what gave me a poetic voice, and an early sense of spirituality. I guess I am just one small step away from being a pagan. The appeal of Celtic and Native American spirituality. Perhaps this is where they can find common ground with Christianity-the idea of the goodness of creation, shot through with spirit. The whole of nature ablaze and alive and sacred.
My favourite place is Orkney. The sky there is vast and all encompassing, the sea wild and hungry and raging on all sides. There is something different there about the light, changing as it does above the ancient ancestors, long entombed in chambered darkness. When I haven’t visited for a while, I begin to get my Orkney Itch.
Some of my earliest memories involve my reaction to the elements and the outdoors. I can recall being very young, in a park in Heywood. My grandfather pushing me in a swing, and around 100 metres away there was a huge tree, swaying from side to creaking side in a gale. I loved it.Today I still love to get outside on windy days. As a postman I once did my round in 100 mph winds. It was fantastic.
Another memory is of my Dad walking me to school as a four year old Reception pupil. Dressed in a fur-lined parka coat and a leather satchel over my shoulder, I was fascinated by the dew that clung to every blade of morning grass as we cut across the fields. The sheen of diamonds and the cut of the fresh air.
Not long into my school life I caught chicken pox, and had to stay off school. As morning phased into afternoon, I remember being knelt on the couch, watching the heavy rain beat against the window, trickles racing each other down to the sill. Soon we moved house, and a new primary school beckoned. Being new, and initially friendless, in the inner mirror of my mind I can still see myself stood on the edge of the playground at playtime, watching a gull glide effortlessly above on a current of air, drifting over our fields of triumph. These are the fields that I now walk with my dog, the school having been demolished, the site now given to wilderness.
Being reclaimed.
I stood recently on that very same spot, thirty years later. Guess what? There was a gull-drifting above me. I watched it for a while. Joining up the dots.
It was as a pupil of this school that I first walked in woodland. The teacher that took us was called Miss Ambler-Ambler the Rambler. Being in deep woods, far from any concrete path or road, in that complete stillness,had an inner effect on me. I felt it in a juvenile, inarticulated way. From that day I have walked coasts and forests and mountains and river ways. I experience it still in an almost shamanic way, without the trance bit. Pretentious though that sounds.
Of all the seasons-and I love them all, my favourite is winter, in all its transformative beauty. The iron earth and starry nights.
And my favourite half of the year begins with autumn.
And autumn begins with September.
The first inward-turning month. As the nights grow longer, and rain hammers against the doors in an attempt to seek entry, it is the perfect time for reading, writing, and pampering our interior selves.
It is the time to quietly withdraw and conserve our energy by lamplight and fireside.
Oh and did I mention-it is also the time that the kids go back to school 🙂

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The Two-Season Shots

Today was a rain-sodden, autumnal day, greeting me first thing this morning as I poked my head out of the attic window of my bedroom. It reinforced my opinion that Christmas decorations should not be up before December, or at least before all of the leaves are off the trees.

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Then I walked into The Printworks in Manchester. In the shadows of this covered thoroughfare I was greeted by this Ice blue vista:

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Bet you can guess which one the kids preferred? The wife too.

They went off spending money, I went off counting leaves.

Pumpkin

Pumpkin

a hollowed out,
    rictus grin
    placed prominently
    at this liminal time

a curious crossroads 
    of old and new
    with but a cursory nod
    to the peaceful host 

frail shelter
    from this Samhain storm
    a rail of russet leaves
    and borne
    the broken limbs
    of oak

and scorned
    a single flame,
    faltering.


©Andrew James Murray

Corvids

Corvids

A clamour of crows,
raucous and riotous
in their autumn fraternity.

Light-golden bathed,
arbitrating
beneath the season’s
bowered crown.

A dirt road winds
through the 
foilaged banks.

A single jackdaw
dines on a
roadkill banquet,
fading
upon the forest edge.

Melting into sundown.

And from the depths:
the screaming,
spectral, jays.


©AJM

Of Creeping Mind

I’ve been sat outside tonight reading ghost stories by the criminally forgotten 19th Century writer Sheridan Le Fanu, drinking coffee and watching both the night and the fog descend: a gradual, conspiratorial settling upon my conceding town.

Setting is everything.

The muffling atmosphere has put me in mind to watch Jack The Ripper with Michael Caine.

It may only be the first day of November, but winter evenings start here.

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The Forecast Is Wet And Windy Outside, Stormy Inside

Autumn has come roaring in with a vengeance, blasting away all notions of an Indian Summer.

Sixty miles per hour winds, pouring rain, and I could not find my waterproof coat anywhere. I had the kids all wrapped up to brave the elements this morning, but my own efforts to withstand the October onslaught were seriously hampered. I left it to the last possible moment before we left on the school run, but the jacket was nowhere to be found. As it was, I had to fall back on a fairly typical soak-me-up-and-wring-me-out coat that put up a resistance for all of five minutes.

Buffeted by the winds, as fellow pedestrians struggled with umbrellas turning inside out, my two children and I made the challenging trek into school. Along the way we had to navigate the Puddle Of Doom. This is a stretch of water that gathers in the road by a bus stop whenever it rains, and when cars plough through it it creates a splash of up to five feet high. I kid you not.

So it is all about the timing. We wait until there is a gap in the traffic and then we run along the pavement hoping to pass it before another car comes along.

Of course, the kids love it!

It looks something like this photograph here, only you cannot see the absolute joy radiating on my face as I experience this beautiful season.

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I managed to get them to school in a fairly presentable state, still bemoaning the fact that I did not have my waterproof amidst growing suspicions that my wife may have sold it or threw it out, then made the journey back, involving another sprint past the Puddle Of Doom as a car appeared to speed up,  the driver no doubt attempting to chalk off his first hit of the day.

I got back soaked, my jeans, boxers, jumpers, socks, everything. 

Next I walked the dog, which I normally do at 7.30 but had delayed, reasoning that if both I and the house, because of the dog, is going to get wet, I may as well do it all in one go. I gave our Golden Retriever the shortest walk on record, then dried him with an old towel we use especially for him and the kitchen floor that he skates in on.

Finally I could get out of my wet clothes. My useless jacket and hat went on the bathroom radiator, above my leaking boots, and I swapped my jeans and boxers for dry ones. I dried my hair (yes my hat was also similarly useless) and made myself a hot cup of tea-one of the last remnants of English civility.

At that point, as I sat down, my wife sent me a text, asking if I could nip into town to pick some things up for her.

Ha ha ha-I laughed all the way to Divorce Court.