This is for all those struggling to find the light, and for all those who remind us we can.
My gorgeous little child of the wild has been under the weather and very tired recently with some weird virus. She’s also been learning, as we’ve all had to at some point, to deal with the emotion of being let down by friends.
There’s a very special man down south at a junction in life where every route ahead feels to him like a no-through road.
There’s an incredible warrior woman (one of my best friends) stuck in a hospital bed unable to do anything except wait for her body to heal and repair.
Almost everyone I know has ‘stuff’ going on at the moment whether it’s mild winter boredom, aching bones or a serious illness, it’s stuff that makes these dark winter days harder to get through.
Even the weather’s gone off – no longer the icy brightness of our recent quarry walk, it’s grey, wet and windy with intermittent hail and snow flurries. It’s that time of year. The waiting time.
Yet while we’re feeling flat and miserable and done with winter, nature goes about her business as usual.
Bird Barometers and Wonderful Woodpeckers
I forgot to mention in my bird feeding post that birds are a surprisingly good barometer, becoming frenzied feeders in the day or so before a really cold spell. They’re going crazy on our feeders at the moment – snow for Valentine’s Day?
On Friday there was a coal tit, a wren and two wood mice within 50 cm of each other right in front of the window and our very first great spotted woodpecker, in our tree until it fell for my neighbour’s coconuts. Not much one can do if the neighbour has better coconuts..
Forgetting to Remember
So despite the cold, the winter gloom and the stuff we’re all trying to deal with, nature is more active than ever, giving a sense that spring isn’t far away if we can just hold our patience.
Nature inherently knows that the seasons will turn and all will be well; the sap will rise. Inherently we know this too but often, in the melee of modern life, we forget to remember it.
Art in Nature
Because of Caroline’s recent lethargy, we’ve been taking things slow and gently, doing very little except walking the dog. Last Thursday we were at an art workshop (cancelled previously due to illness, as if to prove my previous points).
It was a freezing day of hail squalls and turbulent wind but in our little wood-stove warmed cabin on a hill overlooking the roiling sea we were warm and calm. We lit candles and made wishes, shared cake and flapjacks, and drew, created and modelled our way into a new hope for spring.
Transition from Winter to Spring
The workshop was to celebrate Imbolc or Candlemas which occurs at the start of February – a classic amalgamation of Celtic, Roman and Christian festivals celebrating the Goddess/Fairy/Wildly Imagined Brigid and the Irish Saint of the same name.
We sketched our feelings in crayon – warm spring feelings which were surprisingly light and full of growth despite the dullness of the day.
Caroline’s ‘Daffodils, snowdrops, birds & buds’
We made mini Bridey dolls from kindling wood and fabric and modelled with clay. Caroline made a snowman – we’re desperate for snow here at Kids of the Wild!
Reed Crosses for Life and Protection
Jenny, the lady running the workshop at Magenta Arts, walked us down in the cold and wind to a little spring in a field where we cut reeds (with the owner’s permission) to make a Brigid’s Cross. I’ve never made one before. It was a wonderful skill to learn and we’ll try to make one every year now. It really gave a sense that the seasons are changing. The cross hangs over the threshold of the door, symbolising protection and renewal, hidden potential, awakening and life-force stirring.
A little more practice to get the squares more square but great first attempts
Jenny told the children how in winter, plants and trees take the energy in their sap and push it down to their roots, in the underground darkness to over-winter. She explained how, at the transition of winter to spring, Brigid comes to chase away the cold and in doing so she stirs the sap in the roots which slowly moves back up the plants, returning them to life. A bit like blood, said Caroline.
As the sap rises through the plants and trees, the twigs and branches start to pulse with life, the buds start to swell and the cycle of life begins again.
That’s how I feel at the moment, how many of us might feel. We’re waiting for our sap to rise, vaguely aware that it will happen but not feeling as though it has yet begun. Thoroughly fed up with winter, with cold and darkness and all the ‘stuff’ that feels like it will never go away.
But somewhere down in the darkness there is a stirring and a change. Nature has sensed it, and if we keep an eye to nature we will sense it too.
On close inspection the buds are already swelling. I guarantee that when this grey weather breaks, giving a glimpse, however fleeting, of the sun, we will all feel the energy of the rising sap.
With that will come a little extra strength to cope with the dwindling days of winter as the nights get shorter and light returns.
Hang in there everyone, especially Wild Child, Crossroads Man and Warrior Woman. The sap is rising.
UPDATE Sept 2017 – it turns out that my wild child’s ‘virus’ was actually cancer. To read more of her journey with Rhabdomyosarcoma see Caroline’s Rainbow.