At long last we have reached the end of January. I try hard not to wish the year away, but along with many people, I do find January drags its heals and squashes my inspiration and get-up-and-go.
February. Somehow even the word seems to hold more promise than its predecessor. We think of snowdrops and hazel catkins in the edge of the wood, perhaps even the first lambs in the lowland fields. But the month can be a fickle one. After a mild season such as the one we have experienced so far, spring can prove false and a late winter bite can swirl in with snow and iron ice.
Last year February was a month of extremes: starting with snow and ending in record high temperatures. Nature would benefit from a little more stability, as would I, but the weather has its own plans.
Whatever the weather brings, spring will eventually gain momentum, with mood-lifting increase in day length, and cheering blooms.
This year I have been taking the month of January slowly, spending midwinter how feels most right; not hibernating exactly, but following nature’s example and resting. I didn’t make any New Year resolutions, have held off planning any new projects or big decisions. Winter is not a time for excessive movement and energy.
This weekend however I felt an urge to stir, and a burst of activity. Maybe it’s the energy of Imbolc, the Celtic/Gaelic/pagan festival traditionally marked on the first of February. Imbolc is, as with all the pagan sabbats, a festival of life. Described as ‘the quickening of the year’ Imbolc falls at a time when burgeoning spring begins to make its presence felt, and the land is quietly pregnant with promise. Life is about to burst forth from all that is green, hidden, budding. In celtic societies and throughout rural Britain (but especially Ireland and Scotland), Imbolc was a time to celebrate Brighid, goddess of the hearth. There is no more satisfying way to acknowledge and honour this new light and energy, than with a spot of good old spring cleaning.
A time to clean the windows, dust under the welsh dresser, and maybe even tidy out the kitchen cupboards. Or at least intend to…I might just stand in the back garden with a mug of tea in between waves of drizzle, and gaze at the snowdrops.
Snowdrops have long held a special place in people’s hearts at this time of year, flowering despite the often-inclement weather. They are reaching their best now, and will continue nodding their heads the verges, woodland edges, church yards and gardens, throughout February, dressed in those white and green colours that seem to capture the freshness of the season. Those in my garden are diminutive; a couple of spears tipped with a white bud. But then again I did only plant them as bulbs in early December, green shoots already poking through the packet, so it will take them a couple of years to really get going. (If you want to establish snowdrops in your own garden, its not too late! The most guarantee of success with snowdrops is not to follow my example, but buy clumps of the bulb ‘in the green’, by which is meant still in leafy growth, shortly after the end of flowering.)
If by chance there isn’t any snowdrops flowering near you, or you can’t get outside to indulge in them, here are some I found this week in edge of a local wood.
Although I know that time spent in nature is good for me at any time of year, and I try to get outside as often as possible, there are some days when we’d all admit its much nicer indoors. Maybe the rain is needling as an acute angle, or grey clouds glower cold and low. Or maybe we just feel the need to fully embrace that wintertime-rest-and-restore thing. Whatever the reason, the answer more often than not, is to curl up on the sofa with a blanket and warm drink, and enjoy something good to read or listen to.
Here are a few of my favourites I’ve been enjoying recently:
‘The Almanac’ by Lia Leendertz. This small-but-mighty book has become a staple of my bookshelf, not just for January and February, but year round. 2020 is the 3rd edition, and will take its place alongside the past two years in the pigeonhole in my desk, within easy reach.
Turning the gorgeously illustrated pages (Julia McKenzie) to February, I pick out one or two paragraphs to absorb.
- “Along the Base of the hedgerow comes a smattering of hopeful yellow and white this month: lesser celandine, winter aconite, primrses and snowdrops appear, and there will also be a few purple dog violets in the mix if you are lucky.”
- Time to choose dahlia tubers, buy potatoes and set them to chit, cut autumn fruiting raspberry canes to the ground.
- Day length increases by around 1h 46m/1h 48m across the country during this month (slight variation between east and west coasts, far north and very south.)
Creative Countryside’s ‘Rewild and Slow’ newsletter.
I have been subscribed to the newsletters of Creative Countryside and its sister Folk & Field for some time and they are always a delight. One of the few things in my inbox I actually make the effort to stop and read! The ‘Rewild and Slow’ newsletter is a free daily email from 20th Jan – 9th Feb sharing nature led wisdom from a whole range of people whose work or life is inspired by the natural world.
Day 3’s mail featured musician David Barton, who shared his thoughts on the connections between music, nature, and ourselves, finishing by offering to readers a playlist of nature inspired music. You can listen to it via Spotify. (The prefect soundtrack to invigorate that spring-cleaning we were going to do?)
FOUNDLE – 3 women, landscape and moment, words.
I’ve long had a fascination for the stories written in my home landscape. Turns out I’m not the only one. This Tuesday morning I read about Tanya, Jo and Louisa. These three inspiring women gathered as new friends, exploring place and self in walks on the South Downs. A chance combination of conversation and moment led to a discovery that germinated a shared project. Read the full essay here.
No list of inspiring reads would be complete without a mention of NewNature magazine. 2020 sees a change to quarterly publishing, some new faces on the team, and stacks of brilliant content! The winter edition arrived this week. You can download the magazine to read (for free!) on the New Nature website, where you can also find the blog and more information about the publication and the team behind it. I am very proud to be part of this endeavour, and I hope you will enjoy my piece on page 20!
Now, need one more dose of something lovely? Try searching the hashtags #AntiJanuaryBlues, #ThatWinterSpringThing or #ASeasonalLife on Instagram – a community of beautiful souls, images that capture those precious slow moments, and all the snowdrop photos you could wish for!
Whatever you are up to this weekend, (whether is a walk through the park or woodland in search of signs of spring, cooking up a feast from the last of the winter root veg, snuggling down with a good book, or catching snippets of birdsong whilst sat in traffic too-from work), I hope the seasonal shift brings you a little lift and brightness. Happy Imbolc!