November has been terribly kind to us this year in Ireland. It has, for the most part, been dry and bright, with just enough snap in the air to make it pleasantly invigorating. Perfect, then, for a weekend foray to the National Botanical Gardens, Dublin in search of colour.
After a spell of dry weather, the beech trees in these parts are sporting magnificent russet coats. They are wonderfully complemented by their neighbours in shades of green, zingy yellows, coffees and taupes. Quite a surprise really, as I`ve often billed November as a dull, grey month.
It`s one of the reasons I love my weekend runs. At this latitude, daylight is shrinking into a few brief hours so, like many others, I return home at twilight. Running under the moon and the stars in special in itself. But a quota of full spectrum light is needed too, and for that I turn to the trail and the forest on my precious days off.
It was here my running started three years ago. Drawn by the colour, the views, and the earthy smell of it all, I ventured, camera in hand to run and stop and stare. I`d like to think my photography has improved a little, and my running improved a lot. But I am glad of both because they leave me feeling better in body and spirit and mind.
November is a coy one. Quick to show her dark wicked side, she conceals her other glories well. So when you find a patch of blue in the sky, and a little time on your hands, get out there and enjoy!
As we plunge towards winter, I take some compensation from the light of these autumn days. The window of daylight is short at this latitude, so my workday runs are done in the glare of streetlights. Only my weekend runs can give me my fix of daylight and the great outdoors.
Last Sunday was one of those crisp, dry autumn days. My route-a familiar one-took me past ploughed fields and hedgerows, down to the canal and on by the river. After a week of rain, the going was too muddy for my liking but I kept an eye out for some autumn colour. Shades of russet, scarlet and yellow always gladden my heart.
The week`s heavy rain, however, had stopped the colour play of the leaves. From deepest green, it seems as though they`re set to run straight to brown. Drier days are needed for them to sport their full palette of autumn colours.
That said, the light was still a joy. Hanging ever lower and more distant in the horizon, the sun rendered everything in a softer, more painterly light. Stepping through the woods, was like running through a watercolour painting. But it was a painting without a frame, a whole visual experience within a softly coloured sphere, from the pale blue sky, past the greens and browns of trees, down to the deeper muddier colours underfoot.
I ploughed on. My eye was drawn by the sudden turn of a cormorant`s head in the canal. He cut a v of ripples as he swims on, frantically scouting the river bank and the waters below with sudden jerks of his head. Then, sufficiently frightened by my plodding feet, he suddenly rises from the murky water and takes flight.
An interloper this far inland, he looks almost supernatural with his large, black ungainly body and silent, steady flight.
He reminds me that this is the season of the púca, where mists and long shadows and darker days conspire to conjure up the ghouls and ghosts from their graves.
Misty autumn light to lends itself perfectly to ghostly imaginings and makes fertile ground for the tellers of tales. Darkness and cold brings a deep sense of foreboding to many of us anyway, as ancestral quests to survive through the harshest of winters are lodged deep in our DNA. We are ever watchful, fearful, and willing to believe the worst.
Who knows what lurks in the misty haze of these autumn days? What spirits are rising from the ground in the long dark shadows? What ghouls will take over if the sun falls of the edge of our earth never to return?
We are foundering between the richness of harvest time and the impoverishment of winter, of darker nights overcoming the brightness of the day. We are in the twilight zone between the bright heavens and the murky underworld.
Our Celtic ancestors saw this well and celebrated Samhain (pronounced Sow-in) at this time of the year. They knew that fairies abounded now, and that souls were free to visit their living relatives. They lit bonfires and, in later centuries, set candles in gouged out turnips left on windowsills, lighting the way for ancestral spirits.
Running through the woods, I can feel all of the ancient magic that invoked those ancestral spirits. Autumn can come in more subtle hues, than the fiery reds that I seek. But subtle colour changes, soft mist and dull light add a magic of their own.
Púca=Irish word for ghost
Busy week in the Chook House. Though not on the running front.
Oh, I tried.Sunday 6 miles Monday: intervals on the beach. Wednesday: 3 fast miles. Thursday: 4 miles. Not so bad then. But not as much as I needed.
But, as the Man says (And yes, I`m paraphrasing here.) There`ll be weeks like this.
New work projects are kicking in. Then, there`s the readjustment of the Teens to school and college(yep, one has flown). Another readjustment needed to all our extra curricular activities.
Much though I love cramming those long winter nights up with more fun, it takes a little time to get used to a different timetable.
Even the runs themselves required little adjustments this week. From a fantastically warm summer(this is Ireland remember: the mercury hits 20 degrees celsius we call it a heatwave) we`ve dipped to single figures this week and are happy to see the red bar hover around twelve degrees. Time to pull the thermals and the long sleeves out.
I also had to reinvest in a cap. Minimalist that I struggle to be, I only had the one. Realised before last Saturday`s parkrun that I`d abandoned it on a training run that week. Oh, I hate to litter. So I went back to my best guess of where it would be but nope, it wasn`t there. Guess someone hates my litter even more than me.
Now, my cap is dual function: disguise and rainwear. Couldn`t be without. So, a quick trot to the sports`shop and I`ve a nice dry head again.Well, a dry head anyway.
Haven`t been quite so luck on the Garmin front though. My Garmin 405 is completely frozen on the “Drag your finger clockwise on the bezel” screen.
Oh, I`ve tried everything, apart from flinging it at the wall. Yep, did the run the battery down trick, the `hold down both buttons for ten seconds trick` I checked youtube, fixya, garmin and countless other sites.
Modern technology often has me longing for the good old days. Domestic technological issues back then were swiftly resolved with a kick (washing machine) or a thump (TV).
Anyway, no joy with the Garmin. I`ve two options now-fling it at the wall or fling it in the post with $79.
Yes, a bit of a Hobson`s choice, then.
Meanwhile the day job has brought on some new projects. I love the buzz of a new project. I`m on a high for the duration.
Unfortunately, it turns me into a bit of a duracell bunny on speed. Long after my body has flaked out, my little old birdbrain is hopping all over the place. I`ve had three 4 am wake up calls this week. That`s three times of tossing over the week`s events and plotting forward action on all fronts. Only to be shattered by mid morning from lack of sleep.
At times like this, I need running more than ever. I`ve cancelled my trot up to the park run this morning, in favour of a little sleep in and a five mile run closer to home Then I`m starting the week off tomorrow a longer slower run. I know if I get more mileage in on a Sunday, the rest of my running week tends to go better.
And I`m joining Paige Sato in cutting out the crap. Duracell bunnies thrive on mindless munching and I`m guiltier than most. Chocolate, and cheese are getting the boot.Paige also recommend the ap My Fitness Pal. So I`ll give it a try too.
Wouldn`t mind having Paige`s talent at knitting and balancing a very busy life. But I can`t be brilliant at everything now, can I?
Autumn. Hmmmm. I`ve mixed feelings about it. Love all that colour. Love all the new things it pegs into my routine. Hate the long evenings. Hate the long dark wet evenings even more. But hey, gotta keep moving and just make those seasonal adjustments.
TV: Photo by gothopotam via Flickr CC