Quite unexpectedly, spring has given birth to winter. Through the trees, a milky mist appears to cling to the land. In fact, it is an illusion. The meadow, sloping upwards from the river, is sheathed in frost. We slip out, keen to see the effects of this wintry dawn up close. Frost covers roofs, fields, fenceposts, trees. It is a washed out, pearly landscape. We can’t see the sun that is rising behind the hills, but we see its light, casting a bronze reflection on the trees. As nature fights for balance, approaching the spring equinox, winter and spring wrestle for dominion.
By the time the sun has fully risen, spring once again rules. The forest is filled with life. The robin that greeted us on our arrival is trilling loudly at the peak of a spruce. Like a liminal messenger, the bird of winter announcing spring. Bold and fierce, the sight of a robin always makes me hopeful. Songbirds are plentiful in the woods: blue tit, coal tit, great tit, blackbird, chaffinch. The tits and the robin come singly, the blackbirds in a pair. But the chaffinches arrive as a gang – unruly, squabbling acrobats accompanied by the soft whirring of wings.
The birds jewel the trees, one on each branch, a feathered heavy-mob trying to intimidate us into giving them food. There is movement everywhere: birds fluttering down to the veranda, hopping and flitting across the forest floor. A treecreeper shuttles up the tree outside the window and then spirals down to begin the ascent once more. Large crows shadow the smaller birds, keeping to the heights. The jay, a colourful assassin, is a distant visitor. We hear the woodpecker before we see its monochrome plumage through the trees.
There are pheasant living nearby, fat colourful characters with their long tail feathers. Strutting across the ground, perching on piles of wood chips, or scuttling across fields. Their harsh, barking alarm call is a regular sound. And the grey squirrel, who seems to have forgotten he can climb trees, sinuously stalking the forest floor in search of seeds. The roe deer, with his fledgling antlers who wanders past each morning, given away by his white, fleecy tail. In daylight, we wander along damp and muddy paths, dappled with sunlight, overlooking sunlit fields, our thoughts turning to picnics.
But at night, spring sleeps. The sky darkens into a crisp, cold night with plunging temperatures. The moon is a bright, waxing sliver and the stars are clearly visible, Jupiter shining brightly beyond Orion. I walk out onto the veranda one evening, just at the right time to see a shooting star sear across the sky between them.
This visit to the forest is a last tranquil week before spring truly unfolds and brings with it the call to action. My thoughts turn to clearing the decks, preparing the way for new projects to grow. I’ve spent hours de-cluttering my creative work – unearthing old drawings and writing. Surprised to find stories dating back to when I was 17 or 18 and at college, as well as the beginnings of at least three novels. Novels I’ll never finish – too immature in theme and style. But it’s interesting to read these old stories and note how they are permeated by the interests I had at the time – vampires, new age travellers, saving whales, cities in the sand. Interesting too to see the places I spent my time used as locations for the stories. Life weaves itself into fiction without us even meaning it to.
What is also clear is the lack of importance I gave to this work – piled haphazardly into a box, scrawled in old exercise books and on pieces of paper, drawings rolled up and torn at the edges. No wonder it took me some time to work out what was what. That I’d started three novels, when I could only remember one. That the character I clearly remembered from one story was from another altogether. And while this work isn’t important for what it is, it has value for the pedigree it gives to my work now. This is my writing before I took it seriously, but it’s also the writing that made me the writer I am now. And so I’ve begun the process of organising and preserving it.
The equinox is about balance, before the sun comes into its own and works its magic. For me, this week of repose and all the creative spring cleaning leading up to it, is about creating a balanced space out of which action can come. I’ll be taking the ideas that have germinated into stories and sending them out into the world, hoping that they will bloom.