Clearing the decks

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.SAMSUNG CSC

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.

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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.

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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.

49 thoughts on “Clearing the decks

  1. Winter is putting up a fight here in North Carolina. One day it’s in the 70’s and the next, back in the 40’s. The Robins have remained. In fact, they’ve been here all winter.
    Spring is the perfect time to go through writing that has been tucked away for months, some for years.
    I so enjoyed your photos, Andrea!

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  2. “spring has given birth to winter.”—-Sadly, over and over again these past few weeks. Arghhh.

    What a beautiful post. I love that you kept all your old stories and early novel work. I’m not much of a saver, but I recently stumbled upon a paper I wrote in a college English class. Was fun to see a snippet of my younger self in the words.

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    • Thanks Carrie. I didn’t realise the writing I had went back so far so it was a good surprise to find it all tucked away in the box – it is interesting to see that in some ways my writing hasn’t changed much.

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  3. That’s a really lovely inspiring post. Birds are a wonderful fascination to me. My room where I do my writing — the “office”, as I call it — overlooks my garden, so I see all sorts of birds every day. My mother is also obsessed with birds and spends many hours watching them as she lives right in the middle of the country. She says there’s a really white barn owl that has taken to coming out in broad daylight. Quite amazing.

    Funny you should mention old exercise books of writing as, by coincidence, I’ve just mentioned this very thing today on my blog in my Music Passion post, re my old English teacher and her influence upon me as a writer and singer.

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    • Thanks Sarah. We don’t have a garden so seeing so many birds in one place is a lovely novelty for me, even though they’re quite ‘ordinary’ birds. Seeing the barn owl must be amazing – we did hear the call of a pair of tawny owls in the forest, but no sight of them. Yes, I just visited your post earlier and I’m quite impressed by what she prompted you to achieve!

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  4. The written words of imagery, along with the lovely photos makes for a wonderfully imaginative read.

    I know what you mean about those old writings. I have two novels I wrote when in my 20’s that are printed out in dot matrix. I only have one copy of each novel, so if something happens to them, it’s gone. But, like you, the storylines are too immature for a rewrite. They did show the writer I would become though.

    Thanks for the lovely imagery.

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    • Thanks Lori, it’s great that you’ve still got those two novels. I also wrote a novel in my early 20s on a sort of combined computer / electric typewriter, so I have a hard copy but nothing electronic, which is a shame – it does sometimes make me wonder if some of the things I’m saving today will become obsolete in a few years time.

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  5. A lovely post about creativity, as always Andrea. I like the idea of clearing out the old writing clutter ready for the new season, I think I will do that when things quiet down a little. I seem to have boxes of cuttings that haven’t been opened since we moved to this house, and lots of Word docs of only one sentence. SD

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  6. Something poignant about the turning of the seasons I always think. The last defiant frost, the last brave sunflower. Interesting to come across your previous writing – I think most people would have binned their early efforts in disgust.

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    • Yes, the frost was a real surprise as we haven’t had much of a winter to speak of, so it was definitely a transient pleasure. I think holding on to my old writing was more luck than judgement, but I’m glad to still have it!

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  7. I love the phrase “a feathered heavy-mob” — it reminds me of “Finnegan’s Wake.” It’s exciting to hear that you’re feeling ready to write again and I’m looking forward to seeing more of your work.

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  8. You are so right, at this time of year, Spring does sleep at night. What a lovely image. Spring shyly – and sometimes boldly – makes her appearance during the day, and then falls deep asleep at night as we are plunged back into Winter. Brrr!

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  9. I enjoyed your insightful post and beautiful photos. The sentence about live weaving itself into fiction got me thinking about my ow unfinished novels, which, upon reflection all have a great deal of autobiographical elements. Thanks for sharing this.

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  10. Spring has definitely been asleep at night…well said! As always, lovely words.

    I’ve been cleaning out everything, because we are about to relocate out of state. I’ve been going through a lot of my old letters and journals, and it is so cool to reconnect with the memories I’ve had buried away. Perfect especially to come back to those roots when embarking on a new adventure.

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  11. Winter is not “going quietly into the good night” here. We had more than 8 inches of snow last night. Maryland natives were saying today that they can’t remember such a big storm this late into March. It’s been a tough winter, but I hope that will make Spring all the sweeter when it does arrive. Saturday, we did see the first snow irises blooming when we took a walk. They are appropriately named this year!

    Your posts on the seasons are always so thoughtful and inspiring. And the way you weave your writing and art into your posts is absolutely lovely. I hope the day isn’t too far off when we can read the fruits of your creative labors.

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  12. It really is a time for clearing the decks isn’t it? We’ve had some glorious sunny days here yet it seems strange to have had all those awful storms since mid November and then nothing like the frost we should have had and now this mild weather. Still, it is back to rain and cold by this weekend I hear.
    I’m so glad to hear that you have been able to have a good sort out of your old stories and art work. I think it is so therapeutic to do this. I can’t seem to get to grips with anything much at the moment.
    I love your description of the birds and your surroundings as you write ‘through’ your photographs. I could really sense the crossover of winter to spring and back again. Also the crossover of your writing from your past to your present as you begin to sift through it all and out of it all create new and honed pieces which reflect the writer you are now.
    Another truly evocative and beautiful post Andrea, thank you. Now I really need to clear my own decks…

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    • Thanks so much Sherri. Yes, it’s been a strange winter. We’ve had a few lovely days, but gales too. And after a nice day today it’s suddenly turned cold with a storm on the way. And I can understand you not being able to get to grips with things – my lovely week and clearing of the decks has been followed by a bit of a low, but I think I’m coming out of the other side. So, lets hope for some new spring energy for both of us 🙂

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  13. What a joy it is to read your words with all the wonderful photos as well. I’m always eager to know what’s next when I read your thoughts on your site. Absolutely awesome job with this post!

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  14. Well, there you go..seems you’re going to have a winter after all 😉 Spring is putting up a fight here. Some days are nice and mild and then it drops into the single digits again but it’s coming..spring is coming :))
    I’ve been going through spring cleaning this whole week and it doesn’t seem to end. LoL. I’ve been very sloppy this past winter
    Another poetically written post Andrea. As if I can almost hear the birds singing..makes me so happy too.

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    • Just keep that faith that it’ll arrive soon! We did have that touch of winter, but it didn’t last long! But I wouldn’t have missed that magical morning. Hope your spring cleaning is finished and you can enjoy the weekend 🙂

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  15. I love this piece, Andrea, and the photos. I felt as if I was walking through the forest with you. You can definitely see the slow immergence of spring with a hint of green here and there, a change in the air and the birds and wildlife scurrying around.

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  16. Pingback: The Season of Creativity – Evelyne Holingue

  17. I love your perspective on this–how spring and winter are fighting it out. Each winning at certain moments and conceding in others. I love how the frost looks from inside. I just prefer to venture out into spring. 🙂

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