Many people find winter difficult. In some respects, I’m one of them. Not because of Seasonal Affected Disorder (SAD), but because Christmas brings such a welter of responsibilities and activities that from the end of December I seem to lose the ability to think or create or do anything!
I say that, yet, looking back, the truth is I’ve done so much, I’m just exhausted. Sleep helps. Playing helps even more, but my kind of play usually results in much less sleep, so it’s a vicious circle! I’ve enjoyed myself and, from the fun, been able to kick start my creative muse and finish the adult romance I’ve been posting on the internet called Tears in a Dry Land.
It’s been a long time in gestation. Chapters 1-5 were written up in the caravan in Cornwall in 2007, Chapters 6 and 7 were completed during December 2008, but I’d never thought about the ending. I’m very bad at endings. I’m good at starting new projects, having new ideas, working on them until they are about half way through, but finishing them is like drawing blood out of a stone. I have to drag myself, kicking and screaming to ensure their completion.
Luckily I have two good friends, Steven and Matthew, who act as my editors. I can rely on them to spot not just spellings and bad grammar, but also parts of the story they’re not happy with. Their comments are usually very helpful and I’m able to change bits, add extra pages or cut things to make a much tighter, more interesting creation. It’s very satisfying when you’re happy with the last few pages and hope your readers will be too.
Chris flew off to the French Alps for a week’s skiing with his cousin and her friends last Friday. I decided to spend the weekend with my parents as they’d been suffering badly with colds since Christmas but are now much improved.
Despite the howling winds and lashing rain on Friday night, Saturday turned out to be a beautiful day (if you wrapped up warmly!). I spent time down at the Sanctuary pondering what needed to be done over the coming year.
The body responsible for maintaining live electricity pylons had written to my father the previous week, asking if they could bring a JCB into the Sanctuary to replace the wooden pole which holds the electricity cables. My initial reaction was one of shock and horror at the thought of the desecration which could be caused, but thinking about it more calmly, I realised this could be the opportunity I’ve been looking for.
The pylon sits in the middle of the top herb bed. It is completely out of place and I’ve worried about the energetic difficulties it causes to the plants. Now, if they are agreeable, we could move the live wires completely out of the Sanctuary, to the corner of the field which can’t be used for hay. The herb bed could be given a totally new lease of life.
The other major project which has to be completed before March is moving the white mulberry tree. It’s grown so large; it completely blocks the view of the valley from the summer house, so my parents decided it must go. I have asked Fiona Hopes, who came to one of my workshops three years ago, if she can find it a new home, so I am waiting to hear what she thinks.
Visiting the Sanctuary in winter is always difficult, because I see all the things which need to be done, but it’s too cold/wet/frosty to do anything about them. There is so much grass, thistles, fewerfew and other plants to remove from the main beds. Other beds have been totally overgrown and need to be reclaimed if any of the herbs I’ve planted there can flourish and be harvested next year.
The winter does allow me to see possibilities. If the ivy could be removed from under the “ancient woodland” area, we could plant English bluebells, primroses, ramsons/wild garlic and maybe other woodland plants. If the stream bed could be extended a little, we could start a watercress site – something I’ve wanted to do for a while.
There are several areas where fallen twigs and branches need tidying up into piles ready for burning, opening up other parts of the Sanctuary which we could perhaps use for storytelling or other events.
Despite all these plans running around in my head, it wasn’t until I began to stop and look properly; I began to see the wonder in the winter landscape. There were several patches of violets flowering underneath the hawthorn and crab apple trees. The bank was awash with thick, green daffodil spears and pristine drops of snow lay on the grass from snowdrops bursting into flower.
I took several photographs to prove Spring is on the way before resting for a while on the bench. A pair of buzzards were wheeling above the pasture in the next field and as they moved to other territory, I watched a kestrel and a rook battle with each other - something I’d never seen before.
The dried leaves of the Joe Pye Weed stalks (gravelroot) clattered in the wind, reminding me to listen, to be present, rather than consumed by my own thoughts. There was a tiny bird flying between the briars overhanging the fence and the tunnel of ivy sheltering the meditation space, but I couldn’t make out what it was. I know there are a pair of wrens, a robin and some finches, as well as blackbirds, hedge sparrows and other birds in the Sanctuary, but the movement was two quick to make an identification.
It was good to sit and feel the hum of the earth beginning to wake again all around me, giving strength to return to the real world, taking the confidence of new life and new energy with me.