Alternative Wheel: Other seasonal cycle stories

When this column started, it was all about exploring different ways of thinking about the wheel of the year, reflecting on aspects of the natural world to provide Pagans alternatives to the usual solar stories. It's still very much an alternative wheel, but there's a developing emphasis on what we can celebrate as the seasons turn. Faced with environmental crisis, and an uncertain future, celebration is a powerful soul restoring antidote that will help us all keep going, stay hopeful and dream up better ways of being.

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For the love of leaves

I’ve known years when the trees were bare of leaves by the end of September. In recent years I’ve seen leaves still on trees during my habitual Christmas day walk to my mother’s house. No two autumns ever have quite the same shape, and what turns when has a lot to do with the shape of the land, and where exactly your land is, as well.

This year, some trees started showing autumnal colours fairly early in September. I write this blog at the beginning of October, with an array of yellow, copper and happily photosynthesising greens outside my window. The story of leaves is not one that fits tidily into the wheel of the year, not least because during the part of the winter when the trees are supposedly sleeping, they make their buds, all ready for next year’s growth. the falling of leaves is a process that can start before the autumn equinox and go through to midwinter.

For me, one of the things that makes winter difficult is the loss of colour. If we get a lot of grey, overcast days, with thin light, everything can become washed out. If winter is mostly grey and gloomy I am more likely to get depressed. That’s why for me, it is so important to enjoy and celebrate the colours of autumn.

There’s also a reminder in this that death need not be a drab whimpering out, it can be a glorious blaze. We can end well, and with beauty. I think that’s something worth aspiring to. I have a fear of grey monotony that is as much about my own life as it is about the skies.

There can be beauty in grey, of course, in mist and cloud formations, in the softness of it. Grey for doves and squirrels, bird feathers and certain kinds of ice. I’ve never really got on with grey, but on occasion I can appreciate it. When there’s grey mist swirling amongst the brightly coloured leaves, providing striking contrast, then I can really value the grey in my landscape.

The image for this blog is of sycamore leaves, and what was either a hazel or an elm – both are about and when tattered, I can’t always tell them apart. They were picked up near my home some weeks ago, and as I tried to draw them, I watched them change, dry and curl as the light on them shifted their colours. Nothing stays the same for very long. I first posted the picture on my patreon – which is helping me do more of this sort of thing.

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Nimue Brown is the author of Druidry and Meditation, Druidry and the Ancestors. Pagan Dreaming, When a Pagan Prays and Spirituality without Structure. She also writes the graphic novel series Hopeless Maine, and other speculative fiction. OBOD trained, but a tad feral, she is particularly interested in Bardic Druidry and green living.

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