a winter morning

seed heads 5

The fairy in whose presence we are granted a wish is there for each of us. But few of us know how to remember the wish we have made; and so, few of us recognise its fulfilment later in our lives. I know the wish of mine that was fulfilled, and I will not say that it was any more clever than the wishes children make in fairy tales. It took shape in me with the approach of a lamp, which, early on a winter morning, at half past six, would cast the shadow of my nursemaid on the covers of my bed. In the stove a fire was lighted. Soon the flame — as though shut up in a drawer that was much too small, where it barely had room to move because of the coal — was peeping out at me. Smaller even than I was, it nevertheless was something mighty that began to establish itself there, at my very elbow — something to which the maid had to stoop down even lower than to me. When it was ready she would put an apple in the little oven to bake. Before long, the grating of the burner door was outlined in a red flickering on the floor. And it seemed, to my weariness, that this image was enough for one day. It was always so at this hour; only the voice of my nursemaid disturbed the solemnity with which the winter morning used to give me up into the keeping of the things in my room. The shutters were not yet open as I slid aside the bolt of the oven door for the first time, to examine the apple cooking inside. Sometimes, its aroma would scarcely have changed. And then I would wait patiently until I thought I could detect the fine bubbly fragrance that came from a deeper and more secretive cell of the winter’s day than even the fragrance of the fir tree on Christmas Eve. There lay the apple, the dark, warm fruit that — familiar and yet transformed, like a good friend back from a journey — now awaited me. It was the journey through the dark land of the oven’s heat, from which it had extracted the aromas of all the things the day held in store for me. So it was not surprising that, whenever I warmed my hands on its shining cheeks, I would always hesitate to bite in. I sensed that the fugitive knowledge conveyed in its smell could all to easily escape me on the way to my tongue. That knowledge which sometimes was so heartening that it stayed to comfort me on my trek to school. Of course, no sooner had I arrived than, at the touch of my bench, all the weariness that at first seemed dispelled returned with a vengeance. And with it this wish: to be able to sleep my fill. I must have made that wish a thousand times, and later it actually came true. But is was a long time before I recognised its fulfilment in the fact that all my cherished hopes for a position and proper livelihood had been in vain.

‘A Winter Morning’ — extract from Berlin Childhood around 1900, by Walter Benjamin

© image, Emily Hughes

forest majesty

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I love photographing trees, and walking amongst them in forests just as much. A walk in the forest is always restorative and revitalising. My children think I am quite mad when I walk up to the trees and start stroking them, but there’s just something so nurturing and comforting about them that I can’t help myself: they have seen it all haven’t they, these ancient masts towering above us? They have wisdom in their branches and intellect susurrates through their roots in slow, deliberate murmurs.

This wood is close to my house and consists almost entirely of beech trees, with some clusters of silver birch, ash and cherry dotted about, here and there. The beech trees look ghostly in the subdued winter sunlight. Their bark when young is smooth and pale. As they get older, more mature, the girth broadens and the wrinkles develop. Beech trees grow in thickets which are often called ‘queens’ – the queens of the forest; elegant and regal.

 

These images were all snapped on my phone.

© Emily Hughes, 2018

a January mood

 

winter landscape2

Winter’s Reverie I

 

winter landscape1

Winter’s Reverie II

 

One from the archives.

 

© Emily Hughes, 2015

 

firecracker

Today I discovered that our dormant winter garden is full of life and energy: buds, shoots, seeds and new growth just waiting to explode. The acer stands, glowing like a firecracker amongst it all: flames flickering; vibrant and bursting with colour.

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© words and images by Emily Hughes, 2017

blackberry treats

“Life starts all over again when it gets crisp in the fall.”

-F. Scott Fitzgerald

I love this quote, and try to remember it every year when the leaves tumble into crunchy piles of a thousands shades of amber. Every new season always feels like an opportunity for renewal, but especially autumn, when the cooling, crisp winds which make us reach for our jumpers and hats breathe a haze of rich, gold-infused light over the heavens. And especially this year. Maybe because it came at the end of a wonderfully long, heady summer, or maybe because I have taken on new challenges and my brain is whirring as it learns new things. Or maybe it is because, as I head into my own autumnal years, I feel more of an affinity with this season which I have previously always approached with a sense of loss and longing, and am finding it can energise me as much as the sprightly newness of spring, or the carefree, lazy days of summer.

The children always love this time of year because for them it signals the start of the season of treats, fun and indulgence which starts around Halloween and peaks with Christmas, of course. They find the chilly days and dark nights exciting in a way which I, as one who worships light, have never really understood before. Even bonfire night usually fails to ignite a spark of excitement. However this year, the quiet, mellow joys of this mature season have infused my heart and pooled into its chambers with a surprising, juicy burst of delight – just like that first taste of freshly plucked sweet-sharp blackberries.

blackberries

yellow leaves

Felix and Flo picking blackberries

blackberry in hand

Felix and Florence on gate

red leaves

Flo eating blackberry

Felix at lake

© images and words by Emily Hughes, 2015

sketches

Spring surprises me every year. Like a switch being flicked, the sudden buzz and hum of life at volume jolts me into attentiveness. As the earth shakes off its heavy, muffled cloak of winter, a veil lifts from my eyes, and instantly they start to sketch shifting forms cast by the wayward light. As the sun shone on our little garden yesterday, we dug to find relics buried amongst the clusters of sprightly iris and anemones proudly splaying their pert figures. I instantly loved the bare little skeleton leaves, which quivered gently in the breeze as they generously sketched and re-sketched their intricate framework against a canvas of rich coffee soil. I like to think the earth kept these little treasures safe for me, just waiting for the light, and for my eyes to open.

Skeleton 5

Skeleton 6

Skeleton 1

Skeleton 3

Skeleton 2

Skeleton 4

© images and content Emily Hughes, 2014

Autumn’s still

If you listen carefully you will hear the hushed still of Autumn in the breeze
If you look closely you will see quiet muffled beauty in the closeness
Nature is settling
Falling
Furling
Curling

After the buzzing vivacity of Spring
And the full heady bloom of Summer
Nature is calm and muted
Yielding
Thoughtful
Weary
Winding down

There is a soft, subtle radiance to Autumn. Soothing pastels and rich, warm tones replace vibrant hues. A gentle opalescent shimmering punctuated by
startling instants of vivid colour: the magnificent red of the rosehip, or the garish yellow of lichen, reminding us that life, nature persists. Persevering. Renewing.

© images and content Emily Hughes and searchingtosee, 2012

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