At this time of year, the skeleton of nature is visible. Often, the landscape seems monochrome, dominated by the dark silhouettes of branches against an insipid sky. The structure that we don’t normally see is laid bare, giving us no clues. It can be difficult to know which tree is which without its leaves. Seeds are no more than husks of the flowers they once were and will be again. But in their nakedness, we can more easily appreciate their differences. Note the myriad shapes stark against the sky. Some trees are a ladder of soaring branches. Some curve like tulips. Some are elegant and feathery, others gnarled and ugly. This is the anatomy of creation. We rarely see our own architecture, but every winter, nature shows us hers. We see her bones and what her flesh usually conceals.
And so that we know there is still hope, that nature isn’t dead, there is still colour in the depths of winter. Ivy crawling up the bark of trees. The vibrant red and gold of dogwood stems. A few autumn leaves, doggedly clinging to almost empty branches. The soft umber of teasel heads polka-dotting a field. A couple of dog violets are bravely flowering, while the seed pods of the stinking iris are like bright orange berries. A single wild raspberry still waits to be claimed. And berries of course: guelder rose, holly, cotoneaster.
I’ve been away, into the darkness. I sat with it, let it cradle, cajole and challenge me. I closed the computer five weeks ago and let it languish. I meditated in the darkness, let my pen and my unconscious guide me in automatic writing, listened to my dreams. I smelled the print and listened to the rustle of pages as I read. When I walked, I left my camera behind. I saw art, in person. It’s not been comfortable, because connecting to that deep creativity also makes space to dredge up doubt and despair. My creativity was stripped back and emptied out. Now, I’m armed only with dreams and bones. The architecture of what might be created in the months to come, waiting to have the meat and the muscle and the individuality added. I’ve seen the patterns begin to emerge – one idea building upon another, unlikely links forming, layer on layer, becoming seeds of something soon to be born.
This season of unrelenting darkness is not without light. Dark, drizzly mornings are illuminated by Christmas lights, glowing coldly in the gloom. Strings of silver snowflakes hung between streetlights. White fairy lights dangling from branches. Decorated trees glowing in almost every window. It’s difficult to accept that the sun is returning so we ward off the darkness with electricity. But the longest night is over. The days will grow longer now towards spring. The harvest is long gone, but the seeds sown in this last year are still bearing fruit, letting me know that the creative spark is still burning. I’ve had my first glimmers of success in this new creative year: a special commendation for a story in the Prole magazine Prolitzer Prize for Prose Writing and publication in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Annual.
The sun is reborn to a wild and overcast day. Storm clouds gather in the south and the sun struggles to penetrate them. But in the north, a rainbow illuminates the sky, a promise of the light to come.