Today has to be the hottest day of the year ~ and perhaps for many years ~ here in Tramore. I was fortunate enough be able to go for a walk in shady Newtown Wood this morning and to follow that with a luxurious swim at sun-kissed Garrarus Beach.The contrast between the two settings made me think of the evocative inscription on a family memorial in Mount Congreve Gardens.
While the words Light and shade by turn but love alwaysare perfect words for a passionate plantsman like Ambrose Congreve, they also have a depth that emphasises the absolute importance of ‘love’ in human existence.
The clocks fall back in Ireland this coming Sunday, October 28th and this marks our bridge into winter. I absolutely hate dark winter evenings and was moaning to myself this morning about the changing of the time as I drove out to my beloved Newtown Wood, which is a mile or so from my home in Tramore, Co. Waterford. As I entered the wood, I was still muttering about how I’d hang on to the hour for as long as I could next week and ensure that I’d fight like hell to eke the very last ray of light out of summer time.
Newtown Wood is like home to me and I thought I knew its every mood, twitch, shadow, frown and smile. However, it caught me totally off guard today. I glanced down the woodland path which runs to Newtown Cove and was stunned by the fact that it had acquired a new carpet of glowing gold in the day and a half since I was last there. It seemed, too, that the birds and the little stream that flows through the wood were in shock too as nature presented me with this delight to my eyes in a breath-taking silence.
It suddenly came to me that the last time I had heard this magical silence in Newtown and felt a wondrous softness beneath my feet there was in the depths of winter in 2010 when Ireland had its last ‘big snow.’
As I stood deep in thought and golden leaves, I wondered how I could possibly have been letting my mind wander hopefully on to spring. Each season, month, week, day and hour has special moments to offer. The question is: are our eyes, minds and hearts open enough to recognise them?
Autumn is generally seen as a time when both the days and year are closing in. If we view life in seasonal terms, the Autumn of life is a time when the innocence of childhood and the colourful exuberance of young adulthood are behind us but we have both energy and a wealth of experience with which to enjoy life. There is a danger, though, that the mind can run ahead towards winter and the inevitable ending of our time.
One of the wonders of Autumn, for me, can be found in woodlands as night is falling. Last evening, I was walking in Newtown Wood, which is just outside Tramore in Co. Waterford. It was getting dark and I was mesmerised by the way in which the shedding trees were allowing the last moments of daylight to pour down on the carpetted woodland floor.
Looking upwards, the undressing trees where revealing their magnificent shapes with wondrous and powerful clarity. The patterns that were presented to me in this natural movie were infinitely intricate and totally convinced me that Autumn is a time which has endless possibilities and openings that we may never have even contemplated before.
The following lines from The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde, which I first learned in the early Summer of my life, came flooding back like the stream that was gushing through Newtown Wood to meet the sea:
I never saw a man who looked With such a wistful eye Upon that little tent of blue Which prisoners call the sky
Newtown Wood, Tramore is an enchanted place which has very special meaning for me. In Section Eleven of Feature Writing, I describe the wood as it moves from autumn into winter. Such is the beauty and signifcance of Newtown Wood in my life, that I feel it appropriate to post this on Remembrance Day.