February is the fag end of winter. Though I love this season, this is the point when I’m ready for spring, for light, for warmth. This is the point at which the cold and dark tires me and I trudge through the days simply surviving. When it is no longer as easy to connect with that self I find in the rich, dark dreaming. I have woken up, but rudely. February is the alarm that wakes me when I’m not ready to wake, interrupting a peaceful sleep. It is the truculent moment when I haul myself out of bed before I’m ready, to a day that I’m not looking forward to. A transition time, but not the lazy transition of summer into autumn, or the barely perceptible change from autumn to winter. February is hard work.
This is the time of year when winter can seem harshest. It is usually our coldest month and the short slice of daylight is often grey. Though the first signs of growth are visible, spring still seems a long way off. Despite the wealth of green, the landscape can appear monochrome. Travelling to work and home in darkness wears thin, despite the beauty of the stars in these often clear skies.
And the world is truculent too. All over the airwaves and newspapers, conflict and negativity linger. My job finds me too busy to think or to carve out a still moment to reconnect with my days. My world is noisy and chaotic and there seems no space for creativity. A writer always has doubts and this is a month in which it’s easy for my doubts to surface. One of the doubts that I have regularly is whether I have anything important to say. I don’t write political works, I don’t write about issues. My stories are small, personal. My non fiction is about life at its simplest. I know that through my writing, I’m teaching myself how to live. The personal is political after all. But still, I sometimes doubt the value of my work amid the bigger changes in the world.
Nature doesn’t doubt. In the cemetery, the snowdrops have bloomed, clusters of light punctuating the green. Though they don’t have colour, they have the effect of it, a pleasing shock to the senses. And February belongs to the corvids. Wherever I go, I hear the harsh cry of magpies, as they swipe through the air or perch on roofs and tall trees. Walking along a cemetery path, I look up to find myself surrounded by crows, perched on the graves like wayside spirits. Further on, a crow and a gaggle of magpies scrap over scattered seeds.
The only way to deal with February is to dive in. Not to withdraw from the world but to engage with it. To go out into the gloom and expand into the darkness. To be scoured by rain and sleet and hail and perhaps be surprised by it. Then you may find breathing space in the spun gold of reeds, the yellow flash of a grey wagtail or the song of a blackbird in the dark. February is hard work, but then so is life sometimes. The only certainty is that it will change and before you know it February’s doubts will scatter on the winds of spring.