Friday, January 13, 2023
On the way home from the train the other day, I took a shortcut through the dripping allotment grounds, the grass and earth squelching under every step, causing an inadvertent squeal whenever my footing slipped a little and I was forced to grab at fence posts and overhanging branches to stop from slipping over in my work clothes.
Unbeknownest to me, there was someone else there, my plot neighbour, dropping off some vegetable peelings from home for the compost. Or so he said, lurking out at me from the gloom and causing another squeal. His collie grinned at me.
Once I'd recovered from the shock, we were both in agreement about how the ground meant it was far too wet to do anything other than deliver vegetable peelings to ever hungry compost heaps until March at the earliest, and that (for me at least) it was nice to be free of the guilt of Not Doing Enough. Until spring anyway.
This week, I started a new job at the local conservation and wildlife charity, 2 days a week. A chance to help in an area I believe I can do some actual good in, and to move my focus away from museums which are becoming increasingly politicised. I work in the main office, based on a farm, with walks surrounding it. Each lunchtime, I've ventured out (yes, slipping and sliding and squealing again) to explore, loving the architecture of the trees, their sculptured branches stark against skies heavily pregnant with rain.
I soak this up all, like the mosses do the damp. The light makes everything look impossibly velvety, a bright witch's cloak thrown over the landscape. When the sun does break through, sending shafts so piercing you can do nothing but squint, it etches it all with silver. Sometimes, I have to close my blinds against those beams, which feels like a criminal act. Sunsets and sunrises are much more vivid, splashing their oranges and pinks across the dusk, showily predicting the weather like a stage magician.
And I have been taking my cue from them. From the rain and the cold, the wind that bites into your skin and the wild things: this is not the time of year for adventure.
January is the gift of slowness, of slowing down. We may rail against the dark and the woollen layers and the hot water bottles, but they are necessary reminders to SLOW. Stop the rush. Put the plans on hold. Sit for a while with yourself and your home. Patch the things that need it, mend with looping visible seams or with precise invisible ones.
My weekdays may be full of work, but my weekends and evenings have been reclaimed from busyness. After the hustle and rush up to Christmas, it is good to see the empty spaces and we fill them with things that need doing around the house: shelves to be made, pictures to be hung, cupboards to be emptied and letters to be written. We get ahead of ourselves because there won't be the time to later in the year.
And January is the one month where I can sleep late in the morning, the light slowly creeps through the blinds to pat me gently on the head around 7am, and suggests that, maybe, I would like to get up for that first cup of tea? Maybe, I would like the start the day too? There's none of summer's sharp poke in the retina at 4.30am; now I burrow down under the duvet, catch the last remnants of hot water bottle warmth with my toes and sleep sleep sleep.
I bake for the first time in months, make pancakes and deep Yorkshire puddings. Stews and risottos. Apple cake, honey cake, cutting through the sweetness with a sharp lemon. I flick through seed catalogues, make lists, mark sowing days in the diary, let myself dream of abundant crops.
Sometimes we venture out for a long walk, preferably one with a gentle-ish slope so there is a point to work up towards and a slope back for tea. Coming back with reddened faces, hair whipped into witches nests by the wind, stiffened fingers and legs that ache just enough: it mades the hot chocolate and cake end of the day more of a celebration. We eat them curled up under blankets I have made.
So listen to the weather, take its advice. This is not the time to be rushing. This is the time to be slow and close to home.
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