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.
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.
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.
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.
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.