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  • Guy Burchett

A very long autumn


I’ve struggled this autumn.


This year has been full of uncapped highs and horrific lows. The summer was dismal where I live and, being unable to travel far because of the pandemic, we didn’t get much sunshine or warmth at all. In a good year the sunny days last you through the famine months like a rich harvest of joy. But not this year.


Becoming a parent is hard. I never had any illusions about that, but it’s still harder than you ever expect it to be. And I am awestruck by the ways in which, this autumn, my heart has grown to embrace my newborn daughter and her tireless mother. My daughter’s arrival has been the summer we barely had, and has been so much more – ten thousand spring blooms and summer evenings swaddled in one tiny, wriggling, strangely polyphonic being.


Becoming a parent is one of three things I’ve done or completed or celebrated this year that I’ve dreamt of doing for, quite literally, my entire adult life. From the outside looking in, I’ve gained a great deal this year.


And yet, there have been moments of every day when I have doubted myself. Moments when I remember all the things I got wrong, all the clumsy words scattered throughout delicate moments.


There have been moments when I have questioned deeply many of the choices I have made, as well as many of those I did not make at all. My work has felt both intense and uncertain at times, lurching from fulfilling to crushing, and the (mostly self-imposed) pressure has often felt overwhelming. I have struggled hugely with perspective.


Cyclamen provide a welcome burst of flower in the midst of any autumn.

Maybe it’s the lack of uninterrupted sleep since becoming a parent. Maybe it’s the culmination of the lingering dread we’ve all felt in one way or another during the isolation and uncertainty and agony of separation wrought by the pandemic.


Maybe it’s the lack of time to think myself out of thinking too much. Maybe it’s my having been met by both Death and Life on the road this year, and being unable to work out which is the more powerful, the more profound.


It’s hard to know. It’s hard to know so many things.


What I do know is that the last day of autumn will be the longest night of the year, and then the days will start to lengthen.


I know I’ve lost far less than others this year and have gained so much. I know that every moment I fret about things too dark and impenetrable to bring me any real joy is a moment that I’ve wasted. I know that the great friend I lost this year would have given anything to have those moments that I spend so self-indulgently on worry and self-doubt.


I know the daughter whose first cry I heard this year needs me to be brave and strong rather than mired in my own inconsequential cares.


I know that anything is possible if I just keep my eyes on that winter sun rising up over the horizon.


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