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  • Writer's pictureDebbie Innes

Letting spring unfold

I can’t imagine you haven’t noticed, but spring is in the air. Earlier this week I went out for a walk on a lovely sunny day. There was a bit of warmth in the air. The snowdrops were out. I could actually wait until later in the day to start my walk and still be confident that I had enough daylight. It happens every year. At some point after a long winter, there comes a day when the signs that spring will arrive soon cannot be ignored. And even though it happens every year, I’m noticing that for me, it doesn’t necessarily always engender the same reaction. Some years I’m ready and it feels right. I willingly step into spring and accept it as part of the natural seasonal cycle. Some years I’m more than ready and I can’t stand the days after when the cold seeps back in to the air and temperatures plummet once again. Those years I feel antsy inside, like I’m willing something to happen that’s not yet ready – like watching bread in the oven as you wait for it to rise. Other years, I’m just not ready at all. I wonder how the time has passed so quickly. I feel like I’ve missed weeks and months. I wish for just another week of being able to ‘coorie in’ under blankets, reading novels and sipping hot chocolate.

This is one of those years. I’m not entirely ready for spring to arrive, though it’s definitely right around the corner. I’m not necessarily bothered by this fact – and it is a fact – so I don’t feel the need to question why. And I’m also not necessarily upset that spring is round the corner. It’s just that I don’t feel ready. I understand this ‘not readiness’ as I also notice I’ve been spending a lot of time thinking about winter. I’m just finished reading a book called “Wintering” (by Katherine May) – and got to attend an on-line event to do with the book. This author defines ‘wintering’ as a way to get through tough times by chilling, hibernating, healing, re-grouping. So, she would say, when things get tough, you slow down, expand your spare time, rest and sleep. In the years since I’ve learned more about the seasons and committed to living at least a little more seasonally, this is how I’d recommend everyone use their time in winter – whether they are going through a tough time or not. Like our nightly sleep, it’s a natural part of the life cycle to have times of busy-ness and times of rest. Winter is a time for rest.

I’ve also been thinking about the pandemic and lockdown restrictions that we’ve experienced here off and on for the past year as a kind of forced wintering. I’ve even wondered if some pandemics are our planet’s way of wintering. This may be the first time we’ve lived through a pandemic like the coronavirus, but it’s certainly not the first time a pandemic has happened. There have been flu pandemics, cholera pandemics, plagues; even HIV/AIDS was once talked about as a pandemic. Yet even in that sense, it feels like spring – or change – is coming. I hear on the news different governments’ plans and frameworks for loosening restrictions and re-instating those freedoms we’ve always taken for granted. And while I welcome the fact that the vaccine and warmer weather will allow those changes, I’m not entirely sure I feel ready and excited for that change to come. I know I will get there in time, but I’m also happy enough to take my own time. So, again, I’m not really ready in this sense either for spring to arrive, nor am I forcing myself to be ready.

I get the sense that I may not be alone in wanting just a wee bit more time in winter. As I listen to friends tell me stories of what is happening in their lives just now, in some of those stories I hear an acceptance of both a not-knowing and a not rushing into anything to do with the future. Some of my friends sound a lot more able to sit with and ‘love the questions’ about what the future might bring as the poet Rilke suggests in one of my favourite poems. The need to know for sure for them has gone. It is enough to know that this – whatever ‘this’ is – won’t last forever or will morph into something new whenever the time is right. And they are ok if the right time is – or isn’t – right now.

And all that actually feels quite positive. Life can become a lot easier when we allow it to unfold instead of pushing it into a pre-defined structure. It can feel extremely risky to do that and I’m not sure it’s a way we’re encouraged to live our lives. But that’s how life happens. As the cycles of the season unfold in their own time, so do our lives. We will all live through a wintering in some way – and we will all come out of that wintering into a brighter spring and summer. This will happen time and again, whether we want it to or not. There is no need to force it – or meet the changes in a particular way.

What I’ve decided to do in the meantime, is tend to path that’s right in front of me. Right now that means looking after myself – making sure I’m getting enough rest, nourishing foods, fresh air and some movement. I’m making sure my diary is not overly full and includes some enjoyable activities to balance out those tasks that must get done. There are times when I’ll look up and gaze into the horizon to see if I can make out the path ahead. But like a gardener would do at this time anyway, if I’m doing anything, I’m clearing what’s immediately in front of me instead of the whole garden. There are still creatures overwintering in the undergrowth that need the cover to survive until temperatures are consistently higher. So if I take my time just now, on the brink of spring, and tend to what’s immediately in front of me, eventually I’ll be able to better see my way forward into spring. I’ll let it unfold and have faith that, when the time is right, I’ll feel ready for spring - even if that's not just yet..

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