A couple of weeks ago I came across the 100 leaves hashtag on social media which lead me to the website of the artist James Brunt, and I got very excited. As you might have already noticed, I love this time of year; my conker collection is already substantial, so I decided I'd augment it with some leaves. Sure, I thought to myself, 100 leaves isn't that many. I picked up 3 gloriously multi coloured leaves on my first walk, deep red, highlighted with green veins. A couple of days later, another couple of the brightest yellow. Walking through the park in the morning, and on my lunchtime loop however, it was unmistakable that a lot of the fallen leaves are already brown and crispy, and frankly no longer very leaf like. The weather has been amazing and I've been grateful for the warmth and the sun as we enter meteorological autumn; I was going to call it an Indian Summer but I've been corrected by the Met Office who say that this term is really meant for warm, dry spells in October and November. Whatever it is called, I have appreciated it.
This afternoon I decided I'd commit some proper time to leaf collecting, and to nature connecting. I've not been able to put my finger on how I am feeling right now, like many people I am finding this time unsettling. I've been blaming it all on the panny-d but actually, now I think about it, there might be a little bit of autumn anxiety in there. Autumn is a time of change, with the faint gloom of winter already in the air. The nights are visibly drawing in now, and so my pre-bedtime walk is now in the dark, along streets rather than through the park. Additionally September brings the pressure of a new year: brought up in England, I have always seen this month through the lens of the new school year. Apparently research shows that this is true for many people, and my attention was drawn to a blog post by Gretchen Rubin about why September is the other January. This year more than any other (with the possible exception of last year) there are many changes afoot that we're not in control of, as well as the added pressure of some changes that perhaps we want to implement ourselves: signing up for new classes, getting back to the gym, plus all those things that are suddenly happening after not having happened for 18 months.
So, aware that the weather forecast suggested this was the last properly sunny day for a while, I decided to get outside and collect some leaves. We've got a wonderful old sycamore tree at the bottom of our garden and I managed to gather around 70 leaves that weren't just brown and crunchy, and started arranging them around the roots of the tree, following them as they snake out into the surrounding earth, to pop up again some distance away. Needing to find 30 more, I ventured out into the communal garden and was excited to find bright yellow leaves practically luminous in the sunshine. Not only did I find enough leaves, it was an opportunity to chat to some neighbours, connecting to the community as well as nature. I found the final arrangement of leaves when photographed, somewhat disappointing. I'm trying to convince myself that this doesn't matter. I had fun, I walked barefoot on the warm damp grass, I saw spiders and snails, woodlice and wasps, I played under dappled sunlight and felt the warmth on my skin. I felt better. I remembered that connecting to nature requires us to slow down a bit sometimes. All year I've been collecting my 3 good things in nature, every single day (except weirdly the 29th April, when I obviously forgot) but this was a reminder not to just tick it off a self imposed to do list. When I write down my 3 things tonight, they'll be really real, not an after thought. So that's what I'm encouraging you to do this week, collect some leaves, make some art, but most of all really *be* in nature - whether that's the sound of the rain on your window, standing barefoot on the grass or hiking up a mountain.