It wasn’t until we lived here full-time that I experienced the wealth of Exmoor autumns: the wide spectrum of muted colours, the sunsets in wide-open skies, the swallows gathering for migration, full-bodied trout in the rivers, farmers bringing in the last of their crops, mountain-bikers pitting themselves against steep forest tracks before the rains transform them into rivers, churches advertising Harvest Festivals and blustery winds threatening the coast with strong tides.  

I frequently walk this track.  It is pleasant in all seasons, but it is stunning in autumn, a season of discovery, rediscovery and maturity.  Trees no longer have any need of their leaves and so they shed them.  Leaves then discover they have no need of their trees as they gild the paths and forests with a carpet of unexpected beauty.  The trees, deprived of their modesty, reveal striking shapes and curves as well as unsightly scars and knots that were not apparent when they were fully clothed. The sun gives character and life to the scene as it imperceptibly changes the lighting from minute to minute.   While I walk this track frequently, there is a sense in which I have never walked it more than once: every time there is something new to discover about nature and me.

The routines of everyday living have been casualties of the pandemic, especially during the lockdowns. Getting up in the morning, preparing for school, going to work, meeting friends, pursuing hobbies, relaxing and going to bed, all of which form the structure of the day, have been thrown into confusion. It may have been a novelty at first, but after a while it becomes disorientating. As we walk our paths, we need to be especially alert to what and who encourages, moves and inspires us.  We need to recognise that what did not touch us yesterday may do so today. No matter how young or old we are, there is so much just waiting to be discovered and rediscovered in the world and in ourselves:  heroes that we hadn’t seen before; injustices that we hadn’t noticed; pains we had forgotten and joys we haven’t experienced for a long time.

Exmoor autumns are pregnant with new possibilities, new discoveries and new directions.

Contemplating Exmoor – Gallery

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  1. Fabulous photo Brian! Being shielded denies me the possibilities you speak of, but – as you found out the other day – talking at length on the phone and then mulling over the conversation provides new food for thought. ‘This is the day the Lord has made; let us be glad and rejoice in it’. It’s true of every day, much like you walking the same track and seeing new things each time.

  2. Thank you, Brian. You open the senses in locally specific (and helpfully generalisable) ways to the gift which is “living in the moment”. The photograph is beautiful and the imagery and ideas arising from it gracefully unforced. Your blog is one of a triumvirate of inspirational forces which for me at the moment include Bonhoeffer (as mediated by Charles Ringma) and Richard Rohr’s daily posts.

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