How are you coping with the darker nights and the dip in temperature? I’ve been watching my Facebook newsfeed fill up with reactions to the relatively sudden onset of autumn here in the UK, and it’s interesting to see the range of reception the colder weather is having. So far, I’ve seen pictures of leaf-kicking walks with be-wellied toddlers, celebrations of the heating having come on and snaps of open fires, onesies and slippers contrasting with exasperated wishes to be in sunnier climes, complaints about how hard it is to get out of bed and a slew of colds and flu breaking out.
It’s funny how autumn – particularly its accompanying light changes – seems to take us by surprise every year. Even after 4 decades on this planet, sunset at 4:30pm always sneaks up on me. My youngest daughter, who’s 8 and therefore doesn’t have so much autumnal experience, has asked me twice this week already if it’s nearly bedtime not long after she’s got home from school!
We tend to react to the light and temperature change by just carrying on the way that we normally would do, just switching our lights on earlier and turning up the central heating, but then so many people wonder why they’re feeling particularly tired. Seasonal Affective Disorder (or SAD) is a real thing, but I wonder whether we’re not making it worse for ourselves by pushing on through in our linear, 21st century way, rather than going with the ageless natural cycles that affect us all as mammals, whether or not we’ve got an app for that.
Our Celtic ancestors celebrated this time of year with the festival of Samhain, which normally falls around the end of October or beginning of November. Samhain celebrates a time when the veil is thin between this world and the spirit world (interestingly echoed in lots of cultures around the world, most famously including Hallowe’en and the Dia de los Muertos), the gathering in of the harvest (when we were at our most plentiful) and looking forward towards winter (when starvation was a real risk) and, because of these ‘edge’ states, it’s seen as a time of powerful transformation.
What does that mean for us though, living our iLives and buying in food from ever-abundant supermarkets? I’m not suggesting that we hoard food and live on preserves all winter (although it’s a lovely time to make chutney!), nor that we go to bed at 5pm. However, Samhain is an opportunity to go inwards a bit and get in touch with our intuition, influenced by our ancestors before us. Spend some of those longer nights snuggled up on the sofa with a notebook and pencil rather than switching the telly on – journal, draw, create and make. Go with the season by wrapping up warm and getting out into nature to collect leaves or conkers, spend some time making and enjoying fresh, warming soup, talk with your elderly relatives about the family that has gone before, and go to bed a little earlier than usual.
Rather than cursing it, wrap the darkness around you like a blanket, and use it to make a cocoon of creativity and thought. This is a great time of year for sudden inspiration to strike – be ready to catch it and make space for it when it does.