January has been a month of dis-connection. I’ve felt detached from the season and disengaged from the creative spark. Though I’ve produced work and developed new ideas, my creativity has lacked enthusiasm. January has been a drab month. The sodden ground, patches of mud and still-rotting leaves make the world reminiscent of the morning after a party, the sad leavings after the festivities of Yuletide are long forgotten.
Last year, January was dominated by snow, before rain and gales ushered in Candlemas. This year there has been mud. Not the crisp, quiet winter days I hoped for. Nor the glitter of frost on the ground. Just mud. January has been the wettest on record in some parts of the country and areas in the south have been flooded for weeks. The rain and gales have arrived once more to herald the new season, but there have been few lovely winter days to precede them.
Walking the dog in the hours before dawn, I’ve experienced the best of January. At this time, the world is silent, except for the racket of the blackbird, whose voice is amplified in the darkness. The sky is a glowing royal blue, the stars and planets still visible. It’s a time of potential, when the thick darkness hides imperfections and the day might go any way it pleases.
But there have been other moments of connection. A Monday morning walk, hinting at spring. The air is cold but radiant with sunshine. I hear the grating call of the magpie, a robin trilling on the path ahead of me, the high pitched cries of Little Gulls. I watch the clumsy shuttle of a Moorhen and mallards floating leisurely or curled among the reeds. It’s a peaceful, sleepy day holding the promise of what is to come. And then, a Friday morning, the most beautiful sunrise of the year so far: mackerel clouds lit with bright swathes of colour. And then, walking in the drizzle, under a misty sun, listening to the hollow patter of rain on the trees. And then…
Re-connecting with nature at this time of year is about paying thoughtful attention, looking closely to see buds on the trees, plant stems studded with tiny new leaves, shoots among the mud. It’s seeing the signs of spring in the drear of winter, like the husk of a nest in the skeleton of a tree. It’s having patience and sensing the beauty that exists beneath the mud.
Candlemas begins at sunset tomorrow, when we emerge from the cocoon of winter and re-connect with the living earth growing beneath us. Witches commonly call this festival Imbolc, an old Celtic word thought to mean ‘in the belly’, but I’ve always found the Christian term of Candlemas more evocative. The name derives from it being the day in the year when all the church’s candles were blessed. And here too is a connection, in the recognition of the importance of the return of the light.
Re-connection is also about re-dedication. Candlemas is a festival for initiation and re-dedicating yourself to your chosen path. All of the festivals are a way of re-connecting. We might forget in our daily lives, but these days are points on the calendar to remind us.
This month, I’ve written two new stories, but I’ve also re-connected with some that were forgotten. Stories that began months or years ago. Some are just a couple of sentences, others a few pages. Left neglected, either because I couldn’t see a way through them at the time, or because other projects took over. One of the joys of writing is to return to something you’ve written and be surprised by how good it is. Each of these stories has potential. The ideas for where they will go and how they will end are already re-igniting my enthusiasm. Candlemas leads us into the incubating time, when we plant the seeds of the ideas we honed after the winter solstice and plan how we will nurture them. The fragments of the stories I’ve rediscovered are some of the seeds I’ve sown.