Autumn is my absolute favourite time of year. It is the season for which I wait most eagerly, the change in weather and general atmosphere for which I long from the bottom of my soul. The treetops, so vibrant in the sunlight that they are nearly luminescent, never fail to render me awestruck, and dreams of the harvest and what I can cook or bake with it never cease to inspire me.
In autumn, my mind comes alive and I experience a fountain of renewed creativity. I write most often about autumn in my books, in fact, because it is the season with which I truly connect. For example, in my novel Shadow I wrote:
It was a sunny fall morning. A see-your-breath kind of cold, but not so cold that being outside without a coat was uncomfortable. The gentle, curious sunshine played in the spaces between the branches of the trees, which were dressed in their finest colours. This rural landscape, with its quiet roads and streams and hills, promised a special sort of tranquility that Tilly had never let herself appreciate until now.
“Autumn… the year’s last, loveliest smile,” she said, quoting William Cullen Bryant to the windowpane.
Her hands cradled the warm, curving belly of her mug. She absorbed its heat through her palms, could feel it moving along her wrists and into her forearms. She breathed contentedly, letting the aroma of the coffee fill her lungs. Everything was peaceful. Perfect. Later there would be work, and there would be The Shadow, but for now there was only Tilly and stillness.
You can imagine that, as a writer, for whom creativity is necessary for a successful career, I have a checklist of “must-do” autumn activities that help me sow the seeds for a creative harvest throughout the year.
These past several seasons, I have been engaged in a hefty home renovation project which has left me little room to devote to personal pursuits (I wrote about it in a previous blog post entitled Reflecting on Writing in a Construction Zone). While I am forever proud of the things this project has taught me, I have missed out on some of my favourite fall activities for five years running, because I simply haven’t had the time or energy to engage in them.
Thankfully I am through this stage of my life, and this fall, I am back at enjoying the season with gusto. I have been methodically working my way through my “must-do” list once more… and have been reaping all of the creative windfalls it brings. Here are some of my top autumn activities that refill my cup with creative spirits.
Where I live, apple season is early- to mid-September. For the past few years, I missed the window thanks to a busy reno schedule, so this year I was watching the calendar like a hawk. The place I go is absolutely magical – it is called Archibald Estate Orchards and Winery (which, in addition to apples, has a quaint market store and a full complement of proprietary fruit wines and tasting bar).
For me, those glowing pink and green orbs are irresistible. Crisp and unbelievably juicy, an apple fresh from the tree cannot be described. Nestled amongst thick leaves, their scent on the warm breeze conjures a feeling of wholeness and connectedness with the cycle of life.
In December of last year, our family got a dog – an American bulldog, to be precise, and she needs a lot of exercise! So where for the last five-ish years I have not been able to find the time to hit the trails, this year I have a handy excuse. And boy, have I ever hit those trails this autumn!
It’s almost like stepping into another world when you step through that dense, colourful canopy of fall forest. The packed, moist dirt beneath my feet makes a soul-hugging thump-thump-thump with each step, and each breath brings a rich perfume of musk and leaves and life. When they rustle, when the stream bubbles and laughs, it is a language the likes of which only the faeries can understand.
This activity involves apples as well, but is a completely different experience. You see, in early autumn, the countryside is full of ripe wild apples and crabapples that no one bothers to think of as food. I absolutely love hiking through our natural spaces and collecting these magical little treats. What do I do with them, you ask? Well, wild apples and crabapples make THE best applesauce. My process renders an incredibly thick and tasty mixture that can be eaten as is, turned into apple butter, or added to homemade jams as a thickener. I also make wild apple chutney from the larger, sweeter wild apples I collect.
A day out foraging puts me in a fall mood. It is the epitome of a back-to-basics harvest, where the bounty of the land belongs to everyone. A day spent foraging leads to a day in the kitchen with magical scents warming my heart.
Reading in a Café
Is anyone out there a Gilmore Girls fan? Are you in love with the picturesque town of Stars Hollow, too? Well, believe it or not, I actually live near the original Stars Hollow – where the pilot episode of Gilmore Girls was filmed. That first panoramic shot of Lorelai Gilmore walking through the town? That is Main Street Unionville, and as you can guess, it’s got tons of quaint shops, restaurants and cafes.
One of my favourite fall things to do is head out to Unionville (or another small town like it), find a cozy cafe, and read the afternoon away. Sitting by the window with the colourful autumn leaves shivering against an azure blue sky awakens the soul and really gets the creative juices flowing… so much so that I almost always come home and get stuck in on a marathon writing session.
This is probably the last fall activity I do each year, but it is essential to properly close off the season and open a new page on Christmas. Surrounded by rural farmland, we have no shortage of farms that are open to visitors. My favourite is called Knox Pumpkin Farm. I have never found a pumpkin farm so idyllic as this one. Huge maples shade the property, and there is a century barn that you can walk through to see the animals. Sausages, hotdogs, baked treats and pumpkin curry are available to eat, as is hot spiced cider and kettle corn. We love to sit around the bonfire in the centre of the lawn while we enjoy our food and beverages, and when we are done, we hop onto a hay-covered tractor that takes us through a beautiful trail (reminiscent of something from a Jane Austin novel) out to the pumpkin patch. Just off the main patch is a trail walk with fun Halloween decorations and a family-friendly “witches’ cabin” for visitors to tour.
The people who own Knox Pumpkin Farm have gone all out for the visitor experience, and I can honestly say that it truly makes my autumn when I am able to visit. Taking my pumpkins home, scooping out the seeds to roast, and carving silly faces into them is the bookend to a perfect fall.
As a writer, partaking in experiences that nurture my creative bent is essential. It may seem like fun and games… and it is. But it is also something I must do to keep my cup full all year long. I am truly blessed to be able to say that, in order to thrive as a writer, I must enjoy autumn to the fullest.
What a wonderful job to have.
Is autumn your favourite season? What fall activities do you enjoy, friends?