September song…

Tree, symetrical

Autumn is close. You can feel it in the evening as the cold tickles the hairs in your nose. Or perhaps it is the wood smoke. The fact of sunny days just makes the end of the summer that much more poignant.

flower, early autumn

Something is coming to an end. But it was glorious.

exotic fruit

Nothing lives for ever but perhaps every change of season leaves behind a record of its passing, left like a tree ring on our souls; a record of our living- some good years, others lean and hard.

Life is beautiful both in the coming in, and the going out…


A man needs a beard…

I am now about a month into the cultivation of something new for me- a beard. (No the photograph above is not of me.)

It is not much of a thing really- I do not have the nerve to go all ZZ Top. And it is decidedly grey or ‘silver’ as I like to call it.

But it is my own.

Changing your appearance like this after 44 years of a smooth hairless jawline is quite disturbing- but in a good way I think. It kind of marks another one of those life transitions, the passing of young man into- well slightly less young man. Oh all right- middle aged man.

There, I said it.

And it is really not so bad. Sure, I have a bad back, knees that sound like a bag of bones as I climb stairs, tennis elbows and the odd wrinkle or two, but today I spent a day with my lovely family- cutting grass, making bread, stacking logs and dodging showers. A day framed by rainbows and towering clouds, all the more lovely for a sense of something precious-  the drawing towards the end of summer. Days shorter, but still lovely. Evenings requiring the lighting of a fire, but perhaps the central heating can wait a while longer.

Michaela is ambivalent about the beard- she has always said she hates them, but I think she secretly likes mine.

Or perhaps it is just that she too feels the change in the seasons.

Sun shining on water…

What a lovely day. It was a time for Sabbath, after a particularly busy few weeks…

Ice in the morning- then a glorious autumn day, with calm waters holding the reflection of the trees and mountains.

We drove to Inveraray to meet some old friends, Mark and Joy who are holidaying in Oban. It was great to see them again. Mark and I used to lead a music team at a church in England, and Joy has the most lovely pure singing voice. We had lunch in the George Inn, and then ate an unseasonal ice cream.

And sat at the waters edge, enjoying Scotland in the sunshine…

Before going home at sunset, deeply grateful…


On being thankful for harvest…

So, Autumn is fully with us.

The winds are still quite warm, but we have had a procession of storms over the last few days, interspersed with the odd burst of golden sunshine.

And the garden has given it’s last harvest. A few beans and some beetroot. Michaela planted some winter crops of spuds, onions and garlic- but we won’t see anything from these until next spring.

The hens continue to give us three eggs a day, but they are smaller- as the nights draw in, they are less active. Hens do not have good eyesight, and so they take themselves off to bed at dusk. Safely tucked up into their roost.

Autumn is sad season. Everything is becoming less. Everything is old and worn. And the survivors steel themselves for the harshness to come.

Even we humans, who are largely disconnected from the natural world that feeds us, are affected. We are different animals as the temperatures fall and the light disappears.

All the more reason, I reckon, to be thankful for the harvest.

To mark the time of gathering in and storing up.

A time to remember the grace still present in the resting soil, waiting and storing up energy for the year to come.

It is perhaps useful to recall the Celtic way of thinking about time- as a circle, rather than linear. The circle of the year begins on the 31st of October after the festival of Samhain or ‘Summers end’. The first period of the new year is Samonios, or ‘seed fall’, with the promise that out of darkness will come renewal, and a turning again of the circle.

Turn away.

Benmore and the restored Fernery


We took a walk around the gardens at Benmore yesterday.

The colours that can be seen in the tree collections are astonishing at this time of year- and of course there is the Fernery- a recently restored folly half way up a cliff, housing a collection of rare ferns. It is such a lovely space- and makes me think of my friend Simon McGoo- he would love it.

So for his and your benefit- a few photographs…

The compensations of landscape…


I had a tough meeting yesterday- one of those where you suddenly find yourself isolated and scapegoated by people who appear to be out for blood.

But the drive to Lochgilphead was stunning.

I spent some time thinking and chewing and grinding my teeth on the drive home, forgetting again the peace of the Spirit, losing my anchor for a while. Forgetting to bring these things to God.

Not that I believe that God waves a wand to make all the tough stuff go away. But I think that the possibility of a deeper and more loving life is present within all our encounters- and the seeing of these is the work of the Spirit, should we allow this.

As for me, i am blessed by landscape- by the stunning perfection of the Highlands in late autumn.

It is no small compentation