I can smell Spring in the air just as I'm making friends with Winter. I thought I had more time to nestle into her cold bosom and feel her work her mysterious magic on my inner life. I cherish the time for stillness and contemplation that Winter offers and the necessary retreating my body craves as it consolidates the activity of the year and the discharging of this body electric.
I'm spying buds on branches and snowdrops as I walk through Regents Park, sensing the activation happening deep within the earth as seeds are germinated and a hidden life force pulses stronger. This signal from Nature, that it is time to get moving again, energy flowing upwards and igniting into action, feels premature and slightly jarring on my sleepy bones. I adore the opportunity that Winter brings to hibernate, my inner bear relishing the soft slowness of thought and movement. Born and brought up in the Northern Hemisphere I am used to long dark Winters that feel like they could go on forever, pale skin peeking through untucked vests and feet that are permanently gloved in thick socks, even in bed - especially in bed.
Maybe I notice this Winter's brevity because I finally remembered to take vitamin d supplement's in October rather than March so I didn't miss the nourishment of the sun's rays, albeit capsuled, as much as I normally do. Maybe it's living under the incessant artificial street lights as a town dweller, its incandescent light crowding out the natural darkness tricking my body into being more wakeful and stimulated than it would otherwise feel if i lived in the countryside where I imagine my circadian rhythms would flow more easily. Maybe it's because I haven't had the chance to work with my hands in the cold damp earth tending to an allotment and so I haven't been made aware of the season's typical ruthless frosts and the biting cold: "It's those reduced westerly winds that give way to mild air" repeated over and over by gardeners with dragon breath and stout wellies. (As I finish writing these words, I have just been invited to share an allotment with a friend so I imagine that I will have a very different experience of the coming year's seasonal weather).
Whatever has contributed to my sense of Winter's brevity this year, I already miss its deep damp roots that pull me down in to my dark unconscious and reveal places of aloneness and nakedness. The insights that come from digging deep in my interior during Winter give me the perfect fertiliser to nourish everything else that comes forth for me for the rest of the year. Winter's stillness and solitude is like an earthy moss scented blanket that I wrap around my shoulders and find great comfort and reassurance. I need to feel these seasons deeply in my body, viscerally and sensually, so my soul has markers to recognise its path and journey with the turning of each year. The ritual of the Equinox's and Solstice's - the mid way points of reference throughout the year - connect me to nature's body and her seasons. It is soon to be Imbolc - the festival of awakening - when, in the words of beloved Glennie Kindred, 'it is acknowledged that the earth is no longer still but stirring'.
Please don't get me wrong, I am not beckoning in a long dark night of the soul kind of Winter that teases out like a knife's edge. I have been there in previous years and I have been left ravaged, exhausted and utterly transformed. I salute the courage of those of you who have been dragged into the depths of the heart this Winter and who can't wait for the returning of the light in every aspect of the psyche.
And so, I find myself being with what is: a Winter on the South Coast of England that was mild mannered and gentle. It is soon to be Spring, when I shall walk bare foot on the earth again and drink Cleavers tea watching the sunset after 7pm. Glorious.
Sleeping in the Forest
I thought the earth remembered me,
She took me back so tenderly
Arranging her skirts
Her pockets full of lichens and seeds.
I slept as never before
A stone on the riverbed,
Nothing between me and the white fire of the stars,
But my thoughts.
And they floated light as moths
Among the branches of the perfect trees.
All night I heard the small kingdoms
Breathing around me.
The insects and the birds
Who do their work in darkness.
All night I rose and fell,
As if water, grappling with luminous doom.
By morning I had vanished at least a dozen times
Into something better.