My days seem to grow longer as they actually get shorter. I make coffee at 7 before the sun rises, reading the overnight news and sketching out the day while the warm rains spatter, unseen, against the kitchen windows. I drive home from exercise at 7, headlights picking out the leaves and puddles, reflecting store windows and traffic signals. A normal workday more than consumes the available daylight.
So I look forward to spending the weekends out in the sunshine, maybe a museum or a walk. Today it was the South Hill Park Arts Centre in Berkshire. ‘back in the day, I was a member of the Kirkland Arts Center, taking weekly classes in still life and charcoals, life drawing and pastel techniques. This feels much the same, studios and student exhibitions, class announcements and seminars. If it were closer, I’d be tempted back into the routine.
The difference is the rambling mansion set into rolling grounds. Three trails loop around the lakes and through the forests, wooden sculptures punctuating the turns. It’s not spectacular art, but the trees in autumn were lovely against the lakes and the ground was filled with spiny green chestnut casings crunching underfoot.
I needed a lesson.
The first was in recognizing the difference between ‘good’ and ‘bad’, always my life’s work. The good, Sweet chestnuts come in the spiny husks and have tassels at the tips. The ‘bad’ horse chestnuts have simpler husks and shapes. I confused the two, of course, but collected a good cup or two.
The second lesson, still pending, is in how to cook the nuts for use in recipes and snacks.
The British are, admirably, superb naturalists: But I needed to take time to slow down and observe.
The Centre had a movie (Arthur and Mike,an innocent road romance) and a decent Sunday Roast. But mostly it was simply nice to be out and about while the sun was shinning. The days may be shorter, but a day in the countryside, autumn colour and chestnuts, still restores the soul.