Nature is medicine as I remember mum amid chaos of late autumn

by Dr Susie Curtin.

Today the sky is the colour of my mood – dark, heavy and full of tears.
But knowing that nature is my medicine, I automatically reach for my walking boots.
For going out is a way of getting ‘in’ and releasing the grey mischievous thoughts that dampen my spirits. Even just a few minutes of walking in this beautiful autumn countryside and I know I will feel lighter and freer.
Heading up the fields towards Duncliffe Woods, my feet crunch over shining piles of acorns. I have never seen so many.
Above my head the oak trees are still wearing their green coats, only the edges of their leaves are painted in turmeric hues. As yet, we have had no frost to colour them crimson.
It was the warmest October I have ever experienced but still I am surprised by the muted autumn colour. Apart from, that is, the pink orange of spindle berry flowers, the ruby red rose hips that gleam from the hedgerows and the cinnamon-coloured bracken that is spicing up the understory. The unexpected spots of colour in life that bring us joy.

As I reach the summit of this ancient conical landmark that towers over the vale, the grey clouds part just for a minute and sunbeams streak through the trees – their wet leaves glistening with tiny crystals as the light gently embraces the dew. I think of my mother and smile. It is ten years to the day that she died, a decade of time that has rolled past me.
Although she loved the autumn hues, she thought it a messy time of year and would vigorously sweep the leaf-litter that ‘untidied’ her garden.
Instead, I cherish the chaos of falling leaves and the carpet of colour they lay. Autumn reminds me of how beautiful change can be.
Moving closer to my favourite beech trees, I notice the abundance of fungi flourishing in the warm damp weather.
Magical and mistrusted, fungi belongs to a biological kingdom all of its own. There are about 80,000 known species that also include rusts, molds and mildews.
They are the principal decomposers in nature and come in an astounding array of shapes and colours that decorate the woodlands, helping to regenerate the nutrients of decaying matter, bringing new life from old and allowing root systems to connect and communicate underneath our feet.
Being here on top of the Vale leaning against these ancient old trees, I too feel connected to something greater than the chores and tick lists of the everyday.
A lovely poem by Angie Weiland-Crosby reminds me of how ‘everyone needs a place to retreat, a spot where the world goes quiet enough for the soul to speak’. I had made time to remember my dear mother and used this incredibly peaceful place to lift my spirits.
Now steadily making my way home to work in my garden, I vow to plant some winter violas and pansies to bring cheerful spots of colour and deter the winter grey.

Dr Susie Curtin (email

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *