Have you ever done something that sparked so many old memories you just had to fall in love with it again? That's what happened the day after our OctoberKraftFest event at the studio. Morton and I went for a walk up the mountain behind the old church we call home on a perfectly crisp fall day. The leaves were just on their first bloom of seasonal colors, the sky was clear and all my childhood memories including the smell of the woods awoke something deep inside me.
As a child I would make my own amusement, art and magic happen from nature. A clay bank after a rainstorm would prove the perfect playground to lay on my belly and fashion a village too small for a fairy, or maybe a castle of the red clay that would stain my clothes as I played in it for hours building my dreams in nature. The weather might be kind and the sun would bake the exposed clay creation to a semi-permanent state. Mason jars filled with water would help me coax the clay in the shade to become pliable again. Squeezing, rolling and creating on that red bank is how I spent many of summer days. The coolness of the clay and the breeze would prove a delightful climate to sculpt in.
When the sun held out for a week or two, I could carve up the entire length of bank. In my mind it was hundreds of feet long but in reality, it was twenty. Still quite the clay palette for a young artist to lose themselves in. My heart would never break on those rainy days of summer when I knew that nature would be erasing my marks. Instead, I'd run as fast as my bare feet would carry me the half a mile to the end of the road we lived on. Right where the paved street ended in a T junction with the old dirt road, aptly named, Red Bank Road, and I'd always catch my breath and give a squeal when I saw little rivers where there had been carved roads. Castles were now tumbled towers of clay that might resemble an animal. Everything I had made had changed.
But that was my summer canvas. As Autumn found us and the morning became frosty and the coolness of the clay was no longer a perk, I disappeared in the woods. It would usually start with the gathering of leaves to decorate my bedroom I shared with my sister, she was the middle, and I was the baby girl and the age gap never had us as close as we could have been. I was constantly bringing in things that I felt turned my side of the bedroom into a fairyland and she constantly had her side piled with outfits she had tried on and would let pile up on the floor. Being the younger sister, I knew the clothes would make their way down to me eventually, so I'd carefully pile them up on a laundry basked in the corner we both shared.
Autumn in the woods I'd sometimes borrow a piece of that clothing to put over my mixed-up outfits if it looked warm, I remember thinking I'd just sneak it back on the pile and she'd never know. I'm not sure exactly how she spent her non-school days & hours, but mine were in the woods. Passing the clay bank, I'd walk down the dirt road, now with shoes on my feet, looking for natural paths made by animals into the deepest of the trees. It was like discovering a whole new world as the leaves changed color, fell and exposed more of the forest than I could see in the summer.
The smells are something I'll never forget as long as I live. The leaves, even the air itself, the moss, the bark, the scent of wildflowers I'd pick along the way, acorns shoved in pockets that I hoped had no holes in them, forget pumpkin spice, this was my autumn scent. Every once in a while, I'd find a branch of colored leaves, perfectly laying on one of the trails I'd be on, and it just wanted to come home with me.
As I would make my way happily home, trying not to crush the leaves between my fingers, I'd let my pile of nature treasures outside the patio door. I'd slide it open, remembering to leave my shoes decorated with the forest floor outside. I'd sneak around the house like I was on a mission. My big concern was wondering if my sister was in the bedroom. If she was, my haul would have to wait to display.
When the coast was clear I'd bring it all in, putting things in their places as quickly as possible, pressing leaves in my books, sneaking a treasured mason jar from the pantry to be my vase and decorating for autumn. Sweet autumn. These decorations were fleeting. My sister or mother would throw them away leaving me with just a piece of wax paper I ha ironed leaves between and stuck in the window. My first feeling for loving stained glass with light coming through were formed there, I'm sure.
If I was smart and kept it small, making an acorn fairy, or a little leaf wreath or even just an acorn or two that I painted sitting on my shelf, they would last until I decorated for winter. But I didn't keep it small, and I wasn't smart. It was the big branched that would get me. My sister would find a spider, my mother would find my muddy tracks on the kitchen floor and the season would be over before it started.
There was a tree by my pony barn where I would decorate with nature, but besides some acorns and pressed leaves, for decades I stopped bringing nature inside in a big way. I kept it small and that's quite unlike me. Until Sunday. Last Sunday.
That wonderful walk in the woods got me thinking that I can bring in all the leaves I want. I do already have real branches that adorn the top of my papier-mâché forest we eat under in our old church. Why not bring big branches of colored leaves in to drape over the top?
The fun of being a grownup lets you do the things that make your heart still feel like a child. My indulgent Morton helped me gather the colors, all the colors, give them a good shake to let any little spider stay outside, then we got to it over the next couple of days making autumn bloom inside.
As you can see in the picture, it's indeed magical and looks like a fairy would approve.
As for my clothing, I don't have to worry about coming in with tell-tale signs of the woods on me. I act like the branch, shake myself off, wake up my senses and enjoy the beautiful world we are in.
I'm wishing you an autumn filled with creative memories and making new ones with a healthy helping of nature in there to capture the wonder of the changing seasons in this delightful life.