This autumn I've been trying to tap my mind back into nature – I've always been one who feels governed by the patterns of the seasons, rather than the weeks, days, minutes and seconds of the industrious 9-5 drum. Of any given day I may feel a call to nature, and all I have to do is answer. The nature of the work I do means that I can stop at the drop of a hat to instead throw on my coat, grab my camera and head out the door to see what nature has in store for me. A little preparation means I can do this for a few days to a few weeks; my body and intuition always knows what I need, even before I do. Sometimes, it's just an overwhelming feeling, 'I must get out today… for I know I am going to find something.' Often this is when I have my most exciting ideas. The time in nature allows my brain to process sub-consciously whilst it's being fed by beautiful sights, sounds, smells and textures.
I wonder that creativity isn't a practice which requires all our senses to be fully switched-on in order for the brain to make it's chain of microscopic neurological connections which create the Big Idea. Picture Newton under the apple tree: he was contemplating worldly physics, yes – but sitting outside, letting his brain roam free in nature, was when the understanding of how the apple dropped from the tree fell into place (puns here are unavoidable). Was it not Einstein who advised, 'look deep into nature and you will understand everything better'? Monet, said 'My wish is to stay always like this, living quietly in a corner of nature'. These infamous minds, recorded in history, would not have been so, I'd wager, if it weren't for their deep connection to, and time spent observing, nature.
In the spring and summer, the atmosphere of the world feels energetic, and 'outward'. That’s to say it’s when we act on our ideas, we work at them, as we ourselves are energized from longer daylight hours. Living in Scotland, the days in summer are eighteen hours long. But now as the sun sinks towards the horizon, and the green leaves are gilded with gold, we feel that energy turning slowly inward. Now is the time to set intention, to reap what we have sown, and to assess our needs and what's missing. It's a balancing-act necessary to get us through the long, dark days of winter. When one has a plan, even a general idea, of where they are headed and where they wish to be; the winter months become a sort of exploration – a gathering of tools to get us through.
We know that birds migrate to warmer climes in the winter – using the earth’s magnetic fields, along with the trails of the rivers and mountains in the landscape below. That’s an incredible connection to the earth. Why should humans not also be capable of such sensitivities to the earth and the shifts it undergoes in the presence of the moon? Recently I came across an article about an engineer who had finally been able to find a pattern in his rapid-cycling bipolar disorder: it correlated to the moon’s cycle. Two weeks escalating to mania, and two down to depression. Every month. Isn’t it possible that he is just hyper-tuned? Perhaps this is an effect we all feel to some effect, and some are more in tune than others. Perhaps the ones who find themselves looking up? Maybe we've suppressed something that was once natural to us, in a world that's humming with the drone of everyday distraction? The moon has historically been known to have an effect on humans, and I wrote a blog post about my connection to the moon and the regular sense of renewal it offers, earlier this year.
It makes sense that our connection be a bigger one: not just to the monthly cycle, but the yearly one too.
In the Autumn, the full moon sits in the sky like a gold balloon – it seems much more tangible; bigger and more three-dimensional. It's rising much closer to the horizon, just after the sun sets, and through a thicker atmosphere, which makes it look like it's tinged with orange. Sat against the pearly-blue backdrop of a twilight sky, the reflected light isn't as hard on the eye as when in contrast with the depth of night, through a thin atmosphere. It makes for an other-worldly appearance, which compels us to look closer, and feel closer, to it.
It's perhaps this sort of 'moon-magic' at this time of year which contributes to the feeling of change, of expectation, and wonder. I fall easily into contemplation, and I have a note-book on hand at all times, ready for when another idea drops into my head (or out of the sky). I spend hours reading up and researching new practices and theories, and I look to connect to kindred spirits. It's a time of connection and community. I can't help but wonder, are we all connected by the movements of this celestial goddess? Do we connect and reach out to others at this time of year because we each feel the same vibrations, the same surge of ancient wisdom, through our bones? Does the feeling of the moon’s closeness to us bring a closeness to each other?
Whatever the reasons, I am glad of the inward shift, and I welcome the winter and its slower-pace with open arms. It feels like stopping to take a breath after a race, when the early evening light falls early onto my shoulders and I look up at the rosy moon; it reminds me to stop and look at the world around me.
Naturally, such wonder at our world reflects my gaze inward, and I feel my body and mind responding to the rhythm of our Earth in it's subtle, magic mimicry.
January: a loaded word. It strikes fear into the heart of many, as we feel the mounting pressure to kick old habits and be our very best selves – better than we were last year. And the year before that. We will be fitter. Healthier. More successful. Won’t we?
My latest article for Counterpoint magazine explores the idea of sleep (or lack thereof) as a commodity in our modern world. It's beautifully illustrated by Ollie Silvester and is hand-printed by Out of the Blueprint in Edinburgh, using a risograph machine - meaning each copy is unique. You can buy it here.
Here's a Twitter thread showcasing some of the amazing illustrations for the issue.