Even though the same things happen each year, they seem to arrive out of the blue like an unexpected guest – why the meaning of autumn is in the small details

Our project assistant Marie reflects on how getting things in perspective might be as simple as taking a look around.

Around this time every year I am, without exception, caught unaware by seasonal changes. Just as I was leaving the house yesterday I was struck by how chilly it was and had to go back inside to hunt for my coat, which had been stuffed at the back of the wardrobe during our unusually hot summer. A few nights ago I suddenly realised that my family and I were walking around the house in darkness as it hadn’t occurred to us that we would need to switch on the lights before 9pm! Even though the same things happen each year, they seem to arrive out of the blue like an unexpected guest.

Yet if I had taken some time to pay attention to the small whispers of autumn from our natural surroundings over the past few weeks, I might have been better prepared. There are small yet amazing transformations going on around us – the changing hues of the sunset, spiders spinning more complex and intricate webs, and graceful formations of migrating birds flock in the distance.

My son, on the other hand, has not only noticed all of these early autumnal changes sneaking in but is delighted by them, even running out the door to go and look at things he has spotted in the sky or the garden. If it wasn’t for his attention to detail, it wouldn’t have crossed my mind to even look for them. Admittedly, even if I had, I would have cared about them very fleetingly if at all.

This is undoubtedly due to my tendency to become bogged down in everyday tasks and routines, or to fret about things scheduled weeks or months in advance. I don’t think I am alone in this – I’ve already heard others talk about anticipating ‘Christmas madness’ and planning activities and gifts to get ahead of the game. We have become so obsessed with the commercial seasons that we don’t have the time or energy to take stock of the natural ones.

If you’ve fallen into the same trap as me, you might find this lovely list of the top five things to look out for in autumn inspiring. It contains some great prompts for practicing mindful observations and ideas for simple activities to help us appreciate all the hints of autumn.

Wouldn’t it do us all some good to slow down and enjoy our surroundings the way a child does – with curiosity, wonder and without agenda?

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