Sunday, 23 October 2011

Migration time

One evening too many sitting in the caravan with no heating, granny blanket across our knees, reading with gloves on... It's winter, and that means the great move up from the shore into the woods.

First of all come the bears, bedding and books, the porridge pan, the spirtle. A little ceremony is required, some small rituals. It is the passing of the seasons. We walk up through the woods to the cabin, scuffing through birch, aspen and oak leaves. The bracken is collapsing with a fanfare of bronze.

Then there is a second journey, to gather perishable food, music and creature comforts that have brightened our summer. Things we have duplicates of and those that will not hurt over winter can stay in the caravan.

Shifting up is a simple thing to do, at one level, but at another level it is the most profound thing we have done since spring. There's a deep satisfaction in acknowledging that the season has moved on, and so must we. The cycle has gone around. The year wanes. The tide of light is ebbing and we must withdraw into the shelter of trees.

Storms will lash the shore in the darkness. The crag will be treacherous with ice. The lochside will freeze and thaw. We will be tucked up in the cabin, safe from it all.

The moon is waning too, a mere sliver rose in the night as Orion strode the sky. It is time to pause. To light the winter fire, and go gently until the tide of light comes in again.

This time every year I always remember the autumn fortnight we spent camping on the shore of Heaven Lake in the Tian Shan mountains in northwest China, as Kazakh people migrated down from their high summer pastures to their desert wintering lands. They took everything, shifting their yurts and herding their flocks down the lakeside. They built a raft for a tractor and set it off to drift down the lake with a gentle breeze - it took all day to reach the other side. Their motion, in perfect tune with the season's changing, was relaxed, unhurried, yet inexorable. We watched and learned.

Now, every autumn, we nod our respects to them, with rucksacks on our backs, padding up from the shore towards winter.

1 comment:

  1. Lovely Mandy, to picture you doing this. My autumn ritual mainly involves a conversion from cereal to porridge and putting away the garden furniture!