This is for all those struggling to find the light, and for all those who remind us that we can.
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.
My gorgeous little child of the wild has been under the weather and very tired recently with some weird virus* and has recently had to learn to handle the emotion of being let down by friends.
My brother is at a junction in life where every route ahead feels to him like a no-through road.
One of my best friends, an incredible warrior woman, is stuck in a hospital bed battling cancer, unable to do anything except wait for her body to heal and repair.
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.
Mental health starts to suffer and we’re often barely aware it’s happening.
Yet while we’re in the winter waiting room feeling flat and miserable and done with the season, Nature goes about her business as usual, stealthily healing and repairing us.
Despite the cold, the winter gloom and the stuff we’re all trying to deal with, nature becomes 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.
Nature therapy for depression
Because of Caroline’s recent lethargy, we’ve been taking things slow, gently doing very little except walking the dog.
Last Thursday we made it to 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 the 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.
Winter to Spring transition
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!
St Bride’s 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 has since made a tutorial video on how to make reed crosses. Why not give it a go?
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 knows it, and if we keep an eye to nature we will sense it too.
On close inspection the buds are already swelling. There is no doubt 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. However hard the future seems, there will always be a guiding hand from Mother Nature.
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; she was diagnosed 3 weeks after posting this.
Read more of her journey with Rhabdomyosarcoma and information on childhood cancer at Caroline’s Rainbow.
My best friend died just weeks later, her comment below one of the last things she wrote.
UPDATE Feb 2021 – Covid-19 lockdown
More outdoor inspiration
For more nature and outdoor activities, great during the current lockdown, check out the Kids of the Wild’s gardening pages and read our why nature matters suggestions. Try this simple coconut bird feeder tutorial too or make a calendar tree to count the days of lockdown.
Wild wishes to you all – let’s allow nature and the outdoors to lead us to the light.
Here are few things that might help us cope with the winter blues. Click the images for latest prices at Amazon.
Country Diary of an Edwardian Lady book – stunning art and nature therapy
Vitamin N book – Richard Louv’s guide to a nature-rich life
The Wild Remedy book – Emma Mitchell’s diary of depression & nature healing
Making Winter book – seasonal mood-boosting craft & self care