Autumn’s fire has been slow to catch light this year, but sparks were glimmering in the hedgerows from late August. A preposterously large red rosehip intensified over days on our walk, and flashes of winter would catch my eye while the village gardens were in full flower.
Now the hawthorns are so heavy with berries that they are positively stooping, as if worried they might drop them – deep red clusters of warmth along every bough, the colour that cheers, that we’d happily wrap ourselves in. These haws can linger on the trees until February or March, when winter is on its way out. Holly berries, bright beacons of nourishment for the blackbirds, thrushes and fieldfares, light a bush with textbook glory, as Christmas lights are dotted through a tree and light up every branch. The birds will stay off these until late December, when other supplies are running low and most seed heads are stripped and empty.
It’s reassuring to know the birds are so well-catered for in winter. I’ve learned that the pith of ivy berries provides ‘nearly as many calories as Mars bars’, and the anti-oxidants in many berries protect birds from the trials of migration.
As we face an uncertain winter with Covid, it brings me comfort to think on this. I love finding the predicable changes too, like being reunited with old friends after almost a year apart. My favourite, the spindle tree, an ancient woodland indicator and lover of chalky soil, is thriving again, its pink berries yet to open up into those Chinese lanterns that look so very un-English, despite the fact this is a native tree. The lavish richness of all this reminds me that, after all, there’s nothing to fear. We are living and walking through the pages of God’s creation, and his hand rests on all our days, if we allow. The voice that spoke it into being has a loving message for you and me. There are dark episodes in every narrative, but this real-life drama is one we can allow him to lead us through. We’re not meant to be living fearful lives, but hopeful, expectant ones.
Find your own example from nature that creates awe in you today, and let it speak to you of a bigger hand than yours. Are you able to go for a walk, or can you look out of a window? If not, look at a picture, even in your mind’s eye, of some small detail in creation. Allow your focus to stay there for some time, and let it speak to you of our creator God, and that in him, all will be well.