On finding magic when you need it most

The day started poorly.  My husband was away and my daughter woke up at 4am, and although she happily played in her bed for an hour before falling back to sleep, I wasn't so lucky. My day, which had been planned around a delivery arriving at a specified time, was further upended with a call stating the courier would be about two hours late, but to stand by in case they were able to make up some time. I burned my coffee. I was cranky.

I knew a good shooting session would cheer me up, but I couldn't go far due to the aforementioned delivery. So I dropped my daughter off at nursery and drove the short distance to Chawton, This sweet village is famous as the site of the Jane Austen House and was the place she called home for the last eight years of her life. I have always enjoyed a good wander here, so I was hoping it would be the pick-me-up I needed.

As I pulled into the car park, I was greeted with this sight.

I nearly squealed with delight (and I'm not really that much of a squealer). The fields behind the village were covered in the most beautiful mist, and, being winter in England, the sun was still relatively low in the sky despite being mid-morning.  I put on my wool hat and grabbed my camera. My mood had already been dramatically lifted.

I had such a wonderful time. I was pushing myself to capture as much as I could, but I was also trying to be fully present in the moment, because what a special moment it was. I'm often so eager to take the photo that I forget to enjoy myself, but this morning I found myself putting the camera away, taking in the scene, finding the elements that stood out to my own eye, and then picking the camera back up to shoot. (But, let's be honest here, I didn't take too much time for myself because THAT LIGHT.  I could not, would not lose that light.)

As I wrapped up in the field, I looked to the right and knew I wasn't quite done for the day.

That church tower rising out of the mist in the distance was enough to make me practically run down the village lane (again, the light, people, the light!) - there was so much more to see. (I had basically forgotten about my delivery at this point.)

It's safe to say that I couldn't drag myself away from these scenes. St. Nicholas's church was stunning in the morning light and mist, with its lovely gates and the sheep roaming the surrounding fields. The church is adjacent to the Chawton House Library, an institution dedicated to the field of women's literature and housed in the estate that once belonged to Jane Austen's brother. I didn't mind that it was closed to the public for the season because I could still enjoy scenes like this:

And this:

I was insatiable. And fortunately, the light stuck around to play for a bit.

Yes, the sheep were looking at me like I was a crazy woman. But I was a crazy woman who was far happier for having visited this magical spot on this magical morning.  And I got home in plenty of time for that pesky delivery.

An Ode to Autumn

So first thing's first:  when did I start calling this time of year "autumn"? These British ways have a funny way of making themselves at home in my American self. When I go back to America ('the States') and start talking about the bin ('trash can') and the garden ('yard') and various bits and bobs ('things'), I know I'm going to come across as an affected American who spent a few too many years abroad. So I'm offering up my apologies now to all those who will roll their eyes at me in the not-so-distant future: it was all just too charming not to pick up.

But, back to autumn ('fall').  I absolutely love this time of year.  When September rolls around, I start eyeing my boots and my sweaters (haven't quite made the leap to calling them 'jumpers' yet) and start checking the status of the leaves.  It's always a bit premature, though, because September is that transition period when the Pumpkin Spice Latte may be on the menu, but it's not cold enough to order it yet.  But then October arrives, and, my friends, October may just be the greatest month of the year.  It's crisp, but not cold.  There's a carpet of yellow, gold and red on the ground but the trees are not bare.  The light starts to soften, but the daylight isn't limited.  And then the fog and mist start to roll in.  All together, you have the ingredients for the perfect month.

We were spoiled in England this October.  To say the weather cooperated would be an understatement. And when the weather is fair in England, you must take full advantage.  So we did by visiting Rye and the Cotswolds and even by staying local to pick our own pumpkins.  We topped the month off travel-wise with a visit to Stourhead, a National Trust site in Wiltshire that features one of the most beautiful landscape gardens that I have ever seen.  It is like something straight out of a painting.

We first visited the gardens at Stourhead in the early spring, and on first sight, I knew I wanted to return to see the colors change in autumn.  Given our rather hectic schedule in October, we went earlier than I would have liked, and while most of the garden wasn't at it's peak, it was still breathtaking, and there were certainly a few autumnal standouts.

But, as I wrote earlier, it's not only about the colors for me. In autumn, the light loses a bit of that harshness it sports during the summer months, and in England, with its varied (and moody) weather patterns, that can make for some fun - and dramatic - photographic moments.

And speaking of moody and dramatic:

Misty, milky, foggy country lanes ....

The fog. I cannot get enough of these foggy October mornings. Can you blame me?

Autumn or fall?  It doesn't matter, because whatever you call it, it's simply the best. 

Knock, knock ....