Weathered

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There is a sadness about early January that is different to the expectant melancholy of autumn or early winter.  The year has clicked over and we move from the yuletide celebrations back into everyday life.  The decorations are safely packed in their boxes, languishing in the darkness of the loft until another year is almost gone.  Without the chaos of tinsel and lights, the house is strangely bare.  Outside, the earth seems bare too.  The sadness of January speaks of lack, of things finished, of austerity.

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The world seems tumultuous after the brief respite of the holidays.  In these days when everything is open for business all of the time, it is a relief to have a few days in which most things aren’t.  Now it is back to being busy: queues of cars as everyone gets back to work, lists of unread emails and lengthening to do lists.  This is when resolutions falter in the face of reality and days book-ended in darkness.  Life is routine once more.  Life can be a struggle.

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Yet there is something comforting and something invigorating about January’s emptiness.  The dusting down of the mantel.  The return of those treasured items we choose to display all year round.  A pushing aside of the wants and shoulds of the festive season.  We re-inhabit our usual selves.  We can be quiet again.  Be ordinary.

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There has been a cleansing of sorts this year.  Barely a day has passed without rain.  Relentless, soaking rain.  The type of rain that causes  you to wonder how there can possibly be any more to fall from the sky.  Rain that makes you bow your head against it so that it is difficult to notice the world.  When the rain departed, the fog came, filling the air with stillness and clarity.  And now the cold has come to scour us.  Our first snow of the year; wet, fat flakes that were gone by afternoon, leaving iced puddles and crisped grass in its wake.

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This is ordinary life.  Buffeted by the weather.  Bruised by work and routine.  Finding the spaces in between where magic happens.  Because for a writer, life is never really ordinary.  On my altar, I have a perfect whelk shell I found on the storm-tossed beach at the dawn of the year.  It is my talisman for the months ahead: a treasure discovered among the debris.  To remind me that my job as a writer is to pick out the treasures of ordinary time and make them extraordinary.

I always now think of this period of the year as ‘ordinary time’, after reading a poem last year by cronechronicler that resonated with me and helped me to think of it in a different way.  You can read it here.

97 thoughts on “Weathered

  1. My friend, *you* are one of the treasures of ordinary time, a true gift. Thank you Andrea, for another striking beautifully written post. The phrase “days book-ended in darkness” resonates strongly with me. I miss the sunlit southwest and colors. Sending you sunny thoughts. Mega hugs!

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  2. “Yet there is something comforting and something invigorating about January’s emptiness.”—Yes, I feel the same way about January. It’s February and March I find challenging to get through. But then April comes and so does the light at the end of the tunnel.

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  3. I feel relief in this “ordinary” time. Quiet. Unhurried. Your mist photos capture a wistful feeling, Andrea, kind of like this post which is soft and introspective and a bit moody. Your posts always make me slow down which is a good thing.

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  4. Andrea, I love that idea of finding the spaces in between where the magic lies.
    Those spaces are all round us if we know to look. Maybe that’s why fairy tales and poetry are so important in opening children’s imaginations for life.

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  5. Even though January here is summer, the post-Christmas sparseness hangs about. This was a beautiful and lyrical piece on the bareness and hopefulness of January – north or south. May the whelk throughout the coming months provide much delight in ordinary time!

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  6. Beautiful words. I find January this year full of the extraordinary, with spring shoots already peaking through the soil, the bright yellow of daffodils scattered through our borders

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  7. Growing up on Long Island and after the Christmas stuff was packed away, the crispness of the air and soft, white covering of snow seemed to refresh everything like a new start. Now, here in FL, what cool breeze we do get brings the onset of different blooming flowers. Always a new start to things.

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  8. Beautiful post and a beautiful poem. I love the line ‘Time will give me lessons in transition.’ Doesn’t it just! Re-establishing routine in my writing is always a struggle after Christmas but also a relief. It’s probably the longest part of the year I don’t write and so there’s the relief of returning to myself, to my stories, to my characters…a coming home of sorts.

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  9. Thank you for your beautiful post – it is so good to have them back again! I love what you write about the joy of finding a treasure in the beach – I always come home with something in my pocket after a walk 🙂 When I come across some beautiful thought in the book, beautiful face in the crowd or beautiful light and color in the nature, I feel richer.

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  10. Andrea, this is the prose version of the poem I wrote last January. And thanks for pointing other readers in my direction. When my children were school age I first began to treasure this time. I called it the ‘dead of winter”. W. H. Auden’s poem “For the Time Being”, part of his Christmas Oratorio, includes this line “the kitchen table exists because I scrub it.” I identified with this.

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  11. Beautifully spoken and written about some of the essence and spirit of January, Andrea. It’s the same here (and, from what I hear from friends strewn about the world, elsewhere as well!), where there’s a melancholy that stirs a bit more and a bit differently in January. Lovely photos, too. Thank you for this musing.

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  12. Funny, but this year, I didn’t feel the melancholy when Xmas decorations were put away. I felt like rolling up my sleeves and digging into a new year:). Am taking it as a good omen and wishing you the same!

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  13. Beautiful post, Andrea. I happen to love January for its austere, back-to-basics tone. It is the time of year when I get the most done, it seems, before spring comes slowly around the corner and distracts me with, well, everything! 🙂

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  14. I have come to the terrifying conclusion that actually I like a bit of routine. Structure to my days and weeks is good. The Christmas break feels like being cast away in a coracle on the high seas. As usual Andrea, your post here is beautifully written and very evocative. I like the idea of a whelk as a talisman.

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    • Thanks Jenny. I do have to – very reluctantly – admit that as much as I don’t like the return to work, my life and therefore my sources of inspiration, would probably be a lot narrower. It’s just hard to remember that much of the time!

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  15. For me, January is an extension of celebrations and family gatherings. Both my children have birthdays in January, as does my father-in-law, brother-in-law, and my sister-in-law. My mother’s birthday was on the 15th of January, but we still celebrated. My brother and his daughter came up for the night, we visited her grave and left out a cupcake for her. 🙂

    By the time I get through January, I am worn out and really ready to hunker down for winter. It’s a hard month for me, because there really isn’t a break from Christmas and Thanksgiving festivities until February. And thus begins my let-down. I like to hibernate though, as much as my family and work obligations allow me, and I get lots of writing done in the slower months of February and March.

    I love how you and January connect. It’s beautiful. 🙂

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    • Thanks Kate, it sounds like you usually have a wonderful – if exhausting – January and then get to be creative in the months afterwards. That was a lovely way to remember your mother on her birthday. I hope you’re having a good month and not flagging too much 🙂

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  16. I love your post as always . I think it’s always a good idea to take a difficult situation and look at it differently …January has its good side if only we look for it . Rummage in the wooly drawer for some bight creation that you didn’t know you had Is always good thing to do .☺️
    Cherryx

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  17. Nicely put Andrea. So true that, without the crappy weather we’d find it difficult to appreciate the nice days in between. After running in rain and gales for weeks on end it was almost magical to have a crisp, clear morning recently 🙂

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  18. Hi Andrea, I love the reminder that ordinary time is often the best time for finding those gem moments that we can transform into stories. I’ve had to catch myself with the gentle reminder that we’re still in the dark of the year and why not enjoy being attuned with nature’s own rhythms and embrace the post-holiday normalcy.

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  19. “my job as a writer is to pick out the treasures of ordinary time and make them extraordinary”

    What a wonderful way to characterize writing, Andrea! Thanks to one of your previous posts, I no longer panic when the words don’t reach the page at this time of year. I’ve come to recognize this is my fallow period. Thank you so much for your wonderful words to illustrate the world so many of us never stop to see.

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  20. January so beautifully described!! You have inspired me to keep my eyes open for the extraordinary in the ordinary and the visible mysteries that surround us. We have had nothing but grey days, wind and rain and for me a struggle to overcome sadness at this time of year. Wonderful post Andrea!! Thank you!

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  21. I’ve been following the news about the incessant rainstorms in the UK. Wow, quite dramatic for some areas down there.
    I can relate with the kind of ‘sadness’ that is being emanated in January versus ‘melancholy’ in the fall months. I love the fall months and always look forward to dive into the darkness and magic of that time of year as well. Maybe it’s because I unconsciously feel that at the end of the tunnel I will rebirth again into the celebration of light. I do miss the snow though..

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  22. For me January is nature’s Lenten season…..a time to slow down, hunker down where it’s warm, turn within, examine the state of the union between the transcendent and the incarnate, letting go to begin anew with the first daffodils.

    You write so beautifully and capture the universal in the everyday. Thank you.

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  23. You know? They should have offered a Love button in addition to Like. This post is so evocative of this short time of the year (January after the holiday season and February, for me). This in between- seasons period of time is exactly what you depict. You always write beautifully, Andrea, but my favorite posts of yours are the ones filled with details of ordinary moments and simple details of our lives. Through your eyes they become nothing but ordinary. There is in fact, I agree, beauty in the familar to anyone who pauses long enough to see it and listen to it.
    Your photos are gorgeous too. They make me wish for a more dramatic change of seasons, something that I left behind when I moved away from France.
    Thank you, Andrea.

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  24. I have a real problem with all that razzmatazz created by my fellow humans in December. I see it as an intrusion on the natural flow of things, especially my creativity. It makes me feel moody, resentful, unsociable, and depressed. First everyone seems to be rushing around like demented chickens, their brains frazzled with stress or greed, or whatever motivates them, and then everything stops — not in a meditative pleasant sense of the word — but as if the whole country has shut down and a slough of despond descended upon the place.
    I don’t put up decorations anymore, as my children are all grown up. A few cards go up, but they are always cleared away on New Year’s Day. The advantage of not having decorations is that the house doesn’t suffer that sudden overnight contrast from a scene of tinsel and glitter, to one of absolute bareness.
    Okay, I sound like a murky dismal, but truly I’m not. It’s just that when people get too hyped up about stuff and it doesn’t live up to expectations. In fact, it’s so often a recipe for disaster, whether it impacts on relationships or throws people into debt, or the million other things that can go wrong. Have seen it too often, especially during my years of working in psychiatry.
    I’m looking out of my window at bare trees wrapped in mist and hearing the birds singing. Now that is what I call living 🙂

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    • That is living indeed Sarah 🙂 And yes, the excesses of the festive season sometimes seem too much, which is why January can also be a relief! What I like about it is the hint of the old magic the season brings – which is definitely not about shopping, stressing and partying 🙂

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  25. I love the imagery and language in your post about the weather, a topic of which I never tire! I especially like the idea that we “re-inhabit our usual selves.” Perfect description of the mood that I experience also at this time of the year, and the photos also express it well.

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  26. It is a strange time of year, it feels deflated almost but I do love your take of seeking the extraordinary for life never ceases to offer those big and small hints of magic and we must take them when we see them.

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  27. Andrea this is so beautifully written and from the other side of the world where January is full of outdoor activities and BBQ’s I still feel sad after xmas too. But I look to the New Year with its endless opportunities and thank the heavens that I have the chance to have another go at living a full life.

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  28. It is a strange time indeed, that after Christmas and new year feel as we enter those early January weeks. As always, you describe perfectly the same sentiments I feel. Yet there is something good about it too, as there is no matter the day or time or season or weather…relentless rain or not (and like you, we’ve had soooo much!). I long for snow and frost, only one or two days of frost, just for the sense that it really is winter and not some kind of mixed up spring. But I find this time of year is my best for concentrating on my writing, after all the hustle and bustle, and I welcome it. I’m sorry I’m so late to this post Andrea, I was in a bit of a blogging black hole in January, so many distractions, but productive in other ways. I hope that your talisman continues to inspire you into the extraordinary, as your writing perfectly illustrates 🙂

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  29. You really captured what that stretch of January feels like. All the holiday hooplah is over. January and February are usually the hardest months to get through. Everything starts to feel weathered.

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