I love September. Routines kick in after the summer; it has that feeling of ‘newness’, of a fresh start; a bit like New Year’s Day but without the hangover or the burden of resolutions.
I think it must hark back to ‘back to school’ days, and maybe if you don’t have children still in education, it might not have the same feel. But seeing children meeting up with friends again after a long break, dressed in stiff new uniforms and sensible shoes, new pencil cases stuffed; I love it all. I got married in September, on a lovely, sunny afternoon with leaves turning gold, so it has an extra-special element to it now.
Yesterday morning, I woke to beautiful early morning sun and a promise on the radio of an ‘Indian Summer’ here in the UK. I took myself off into the local woodland for my morning walk. I like to get some fresh air before I begin writing each day, as, apart from helping to clear my mind before filling it with words and phrases, I also often get so into the work once I finally begin that I ‘forget’ to get some exercise and fresh air later in the day.
I followed the usual path along the side of the allotments, bursting with growth, almost ready for their owners to harvest. The path down towards the river is overgrown now with nettles and branches, making it difficult to find my way through. Reaching the bottom, I sat on my favourite bench overlooking the river and the allotments climbing up the hill beyond, just to take a few, restorative breaths. A large single sunflower on one of the allotments stared back at me happily. And it struck me that I was sitting here, just like that last single sunflower, trying to glean what could be the last week of the warmth and sunshine before autumn sets in. I felt, like the sunflower, that I’m banking it, putting it away in my pocket to draw upon later in the late autumn and long winter.
I sat there, glancing upwards toward the bright blue cloudless sky. There are many trees within the woods, it is such a privilege to live so close to them. The one to my right stood alone, apart, framed by the sky. It is gnarled and bent over, like an old man, then straightening as it reaches upwards, branches unfurling and green leaves shooting all around its crown. It was majestic in the morning sunlight.
As I sat there, I heard the Sunday morning church bells in the near distance chiming, welcoming in its parishioners. I love to hear the church bells peeling, despite not following any formal religion. It reminds me of celebration: of weddings and christenings and Christmas carol services. I’m sometimes envious of people who have a faith, who belong to a religious tradition. It must give comfort and solace. But I’ve personally always found the strictness of believing in one thing, one way, too narrow and conformist.
And I realised, sitting there on that perfect morning, with the sound of the river rushing, the huge, sunflower head bobbing on its impossibly long stem; the framed, gnarled, yet somehow resilient and majestic tree; the blue sky and the bells peeling out – I realised this is my religion – this is how I chose to spend Sunday morning worship – worshipping the nature I’m blessed with living amongst; my health to come here and walk; the time to write and follow my passion; the thoughtful family who placed this bench here to commemorate the loss of a loved one.
I heard a quote once that has stuck with me ever since, though the speaker remains unknown: ‘He has his Church, and I have mine’. I think that sums it up: we are all free to go out and find our own ‘religion’, or spirituality, wherever we find it.