February’s doubts

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

110 thoughts on “February’s doubts

  1. Beautiful description of February, Andrea. Nature moves along at her own pace. When I lived back east, I used to look forward to the first male cardinals singing in February, and the presence of small green shoots. March brought the spring peepers. Here in my part of the Pacific Northwest there seems to be more of a blur between fall, winter and spring. Pacific Chorus frogs may start singing in December or January, or perhaps not until February. The cardinals of my youth do not range this far west. Grass turns green in winter. Length of day is the main driver.

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  2. Self-doubt is awful! It nags away in the background and affects everything we do. It’s easier to cope with someone else’s doubt than our own!
    This month has been so drear and gloomy, it’s no wonder you are tired and in need of colour and light. I haven’t been following your blog for very long but what I have read of yours I have found beautiful and moving. The world needs writers like you who speak of the small and ordinary things but in such a way that they catch the light and shine.
    As always I love your photos and your observations.

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  3. I may be biased, but I believe your style of writing is what the world needs more of. There’s a gluttony of those other types you’ve mentioned, and where has it gotten us? Time to return to the simple aspects of life, which is where we find its true essence. ❤

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  4. Andrea, I know what it is I love about your writing–besides your sensibilities–it’s the poetry. You write such poetic blog posts. And truculent. Perfect word for a very imperfect time. My favorite photo is the one with the crow and the magpies. They are such busy little passersby that they give hope for the spring.

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  5. We really have been in the same space; I know misery loves company but I’d so much prefer for us to be companionably happy! It is indeed incredibly difficult to hold on to my sense of self-worth as an artist right now (and my art and self are hard to separate). But I keep telling myself that to exist artfully is a form of social activism, and I’m ready to start scrapping. Also, your concluding sentence just put me in mind of a line from an old jazz standard (These Foolish Things): “The winds of March that make my heart a dancer”. I have a feeling that you’ve just planted the seed for my next post. 🙂

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  6. Few people write beautifully about the connection between the ever-changing journey of humans and the reassuring presence of nature. Although seasons come and go and some years are different from others I also find reassurance in the constance of Mother Nature as weeks and months pass and carry me from one season to another. Depending of continents and countries February is also different. But yours is similar to the ones I used to know when I lived in France or New England. Eloquent as always this is a lovely post, Andrea.

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  7. A beautiful reflective post, Andrea and frighteningly close to how I feel about this month. The positive light and shine of December has long since dissipated, January darkness and the acceptance thereof worn thin. How we long for the light, the light of early morning, later evening, the light in world events, the light relief of feeling certainty in what we do. As for the latter I sincerely believe every story is worth telling, the magic of the sagas remain and please don’t doubt yourself. As the Spring warmth swept over this weekend the brightnesss is evident and the mornings lighter, albeit dull grey today! Wishing you peace and Happy Writing!

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  8. We are experiencing lovely spring like days here at the moment…I even sat outside yesterday with a book and a cup of tea! But I’m aware that I’m being lured into a false sense of seasonal end…the forecast is for cold weather again by the end of the week 😐

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  9. A marvelous post! Here, after a cold and snowy tw0o weeks, we are back in unimaginable warmth. There is promise of a return to winter in about ten days. We shall see.Would it be OK for me to reblog this post?

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  10. I think life is all about changing oneself. It is all we can do.
    I find politics intensely boring and wish people would pay more attention to themselves and change the world that way instead of railing at international events.
    And with all this we have your beautiful writing.
    Thank you.

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  11. Hi Andrea — I love your thoughtful and honest reflections. I can see how you write for yourself struggling with life at times and searching for answers. It warms my heart and is endearing. I feel myself challenged with similar things. The photos invoke a peace for me as a reminder of how precious life is and, yet, so temporary.

    We don’t have many cemeteries like that here in Colorado and I find them mysterious and engaging in feeling that nothing is really dead — only moved on. It teases my curiosity in wondering where did they go. There’s always the hope that, just like nature being dormant in winter, life and love always will sustain themselves and return again and again in one form or another. Spring will be here before you know it.

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    • Thank you Pat, I have a theory that our purpose in life is to learn and writing is the way I do that 🙂 By the way I’ve realised I haven’t been getting your blog notifications, but have just been over there and signed up for email notifications, so hopefully that will solve the problem!

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      • Me too, Andrea, writing is an outlet for me and an expression of what I’m feeling. I don’t have formal training in it — so, the words are sometimes simple and content eratic. It’s real, though, straight from my heart, as I feel it is in your posts.

        BTW I looked for your name as a follower via email and still don’t see it. Not sure why you don’t show up. Want to try again from the sidebar option rather than checking a box after commenting on a post; or maybe, if there’s a problem, you can follow me via WordPress.org?

        Let me know so I can check on my end for a problem. Thank You! 🙂

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      • Sorry Andrea — still don’t see it. I made some adjustments reloading my subscribe widget and deactivating another email widget that may be causing a conflict.

        Let me know if you try again, and if you’re getting an email to confirm your subscription or not, and I’ll keep looking into what else could be causing the problem. Thank You! I appreciate your patience in working with me on this. 🙂

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      • Hi Andrea — I’m looking into it further via WordPress and need a little more information. Did you try to re-subscribe only from the sidebar or from checking a box at the end of a post in the comments. If it was at the end of a post, which one was it?

        Thank you — seems like there may have been an email subscription problem awhile ago according to the forums. Truly appreciate your help and bringing this to my attention. 🙂

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      • No problem, Andrea. I’m still working on it, too. I still don’t see your name as a new subscriber.

        The technical person on WordPress looked into it and couldn’t find a problem. He also subscribed on my site and I see his name. So, it looks like in a test post he would get notification of it.

        He said he would look to see where it’s not connecting with you but I would need to let him know what your email is. Would you mind sending it to me in my contact form you’ll find on my site so it will be undisclosed?

        We’ll get it eventually. I sure appreciate you helping me with this. Thank you again. 🙂

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      • Hi Andrea — wanted to give you a heads up that a WordPress (Jetpack) representative will be reaching out to contact you on this.

        Looks like they’ve done all they can do on my end. Hope this helps. Sorry it’s been such a hassle to subscribe over on my site. I’m wanting to have you as one of my followers and enjoy your thoughtful reflections and loving energy. Thank you for your patience, my friend. 🙂

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      • Thanks, Andrea. I see where you’ve been subscribed as a WordPress.com follower but not via e-mail. I’ll be doing a test post soon. If you let me know you got notified, when I do, would be great. You’re the best — thank you again! 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  12. Andrea, you have surely nailed the feelings I always have around February as well. Although the days are, in fact, getting longer, it still seems like the darkest month. The longest month. As always, I love your photos. Despite your description of life being monochromatic, there are such marvelous, albeit subtle, layers of color in the sky in your second photo. And I love the crows and magpies. (Don’t see magpies where I am.) Sometimes it’s the small visions of life that have the most importance because they weave us all together in a heartfelt and comforting communion. Thanks for that. Jeanne

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  13. I’m happy you choose not to write about politics, Andrea. There’s enough nastiness clogging social media these days. Your posts, along with your stunning photographs are always refreshing.
    I wish I could bottle up some of our February weather and send it your way. We’d had lovely weather with warm temperatures. Sadly, everything is blooming and winter isn’t over.

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  14. I can identify with trudging through February … well at least usually. This February we are in shockingly warm temperatures. I mean, normally temperatures we see in May! I keep forgetting it’s still winter, as we are not forecast to see colder temps for another week.

    I wanted to mention that when you say your writing teaches you how to live, if others read it, you may inadvertently teach others how to live as well. We never know where we’re planting seeds. Not to mention, if we want to see a change in the world, we need to look to ourselves. And that’s what you’re doing.

    Whenever your soul is moved to write, you move my soul with your words. 🙂

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  15. Pingback: Award and Tips on Blogging – Lori's Lane

  16. Self doubt can be a terrible thing but I for one love coming here to get away from all that and to be reminded of the true beauty of time and nature. Your blog occupies a part of the internet that I love coming to so please doubt no more about what you write! And I haven’t even mentioned the photos which are always a call to travel!

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  17. Reblogged this on Book to the Future and commented:
    I’m finally back and with plenty of news, like the spam message from a certain rabid news corporation in the US which was (unsurprisingly) shockingly written. For now though , go visit my first of two reblogs for today. First up is Andrea, whose blog deserves a lot of love thanks to its evocative photography and subject matter. A haven for all those wishing to appreciate the simple joys in life.

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  18. Oh Andrea, thank you for this: ‘February’s doubts will scatter on the winds of spring.’ With sure signs of spring as my narcissus bloom and smile in the glorious sunshine, it feels so promising, but then, as today, the grey sets in again, and we are in for another cold spell I believe and those promises somehow seem to dwindle. I am finding it hard having to put blogging aside while I work on my memoir, and although I don’t work outside the home, the distractions with life inside sometimes get me down. I feel suffocated by a growing sense of isolation for many reasons. Perhaps it is part of SAD? I don’t know. I resonate with everything you share here, wondering what it is I am writing about, why I’m doing it, what difference am I really making? A gloom sets in doesn’t it? But I read your lovely words and feast on your beautiful photos and I am reminded with the hope that February’s doubts will soon disappear…your work makes a difference, to each of us reading it, be assured my friend…

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    • Storm Doris arrived today and chased away any signs of spring, but the storm wasn’t quite as fierce here as predicted, so I’m sure it will soon blow over – I do appreciate ‘weather’ though – we haven’t had much of that. Much as I dislike having to go out to work, I do recognise that if I didn’t, I could probably end up wallowing more in self-doubt, but please don’t doubt yourself either Sherri, I’ve been moved by so many of your words.

      Liked by 1 person

      • So glad you’re okay, just heard on the news about the awful damage by Storm Doris further up north. We escaped down here with just a few gusts of strong wind. We’re off to Brighton to see the boys tomorrow for the weekend, so I expect the sea will be churned up. I know just what you mean about enjoying some real weather; I longed for it when I lived in California, when it was blue skies day in, day out…and hot!! But then it was all or nothing. Drought or floods. Ahh…thank you Andrea, you are very kind with your encouragement. Have a lovely weekend and I hope that spring recovers for you after the storms…

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  19. This is so much how I feel, Andrea, and I can see that others feel it, too. I’m sorry that your job stops you seeing the daylight. You are lucky, though, if you get a chance to see the stars, as it has been grey, grey and more grey down south. There are lots of jackdaws though. I like jackdaws. And I’ve seen woodpigeons necking on my garden fence. There’s also an absolutely beautiful thrush that has taken up residence this year. I guess it knows my garden is a cat-free zone.

    It’s so hard to strive for balance between yearning for Spring and yet not wanting to wish our lives away. I’ve had a decidedly unproductive winter, also full of self-doubt. I’m not sure anymore if people are interested in the things I write about but, like you, I don’t want to write about politics and issues. At the end of the day, we must be true to ourselves and if that means not conforming, so be it. I love your writing.

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    • That’s true Sarah, long live the unique quirkiness of each one of us! Although I go to work and come back in the dark, I do get to go out and about around the borough, which gives plenty of time for noticing the world and for pondering on stories, but February doesn’t do much for inspiration!

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  20. It’s true that this is the time of year when we’re craving green, especially when the gray seems to seep into everything. I’ve been full of doubts too. Hopefully the spring will reawaken us and melt all those doubts away. I love the snowdrops blooming in the frosty green and will look forward to seeing everything bloom again.

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  21. Well observed Andrea – you capture in words what most of us feel. You’re right though – these days need to be tackled head-on, not hidden away from. Love the gloomy cemetery, I could wander through there for hours.

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  22. I’m with you, Andrea; I have never had much of a desire to blog about politics and such. I do read some, but there is so much out there, and I can’t let all of that negativity and conflict take over my thoughts. I have cried over some of the stuff I’ve read recently. Far too sensitive for it.

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  23. Completely identified with this. Coming in yesterday I felt like one of Macbeth’s witches coming in from the blasted heath, having caught the tail end of storm Doris. But going out does help (when the wind’s calmed down!) I always love watching the magpies – they are so brash and handsome and I can’t stay too miserable if I see a flock of long-tailed tits which seem much more common than they were when I was a child. And the world needs all kinds of stories – the small and personal as much as any other. Your writing touches people. It’s an absolute pleasure to read you.

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  24. February is very tough, I agree. For me, I think it’s the letdown from an extremely busy span of months from September through January. I usually am beset by the winter blues anywhere throughout February and March. On the flip side, strangely enough, I find such a gloomy time of year to be a productive time for my writing. I can’t get enough of it! That could be me hiding from reality, too, though, using writing as my sanctuary from the harsh winter around me. Here’s to springy skies ahead!

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  25. Such a beautiful walk, Andrea, and the snowdrops look like they are painted over the photographs 🙂 I love this season when masses of snowdrops are flooding the woods, and even the graveyards look pretty.
    The most important changes are simple.

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  26. Pingback: Andrea Stephenson on Febrary’s Doubts | Journeys

  27. I have never liked Feb. Much, though January would be rather long without it.
    February is usually the worst weather, but with that promise of Spring coming up.
    I usually dread it. This year, it has been mild, so mild. 50s-60s, short-sleeves, light jacket through almost all of it. We just had a light 1/2 in snow early today. It has gotten into the low 30s. Still, so mild.
    This year, I have enjoyed the long dark as I can sleep in and feel happy because my room is not bright. I love fall best, but, this year, February has been a good month.

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  28. I absolutely love the look of the cold weather Andrea. February in Australia is the hottest time of the year and I’m so looking forward to leaving the sweltering heat behind as winter approaches – although winter in a tropical climate isn’t really ‘winter’ as the world knows it xxx

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  29. I admire your tenacity to engage with February Andrea. I usually retire to my study and find indoor work that needs to be done, convincing myself that it’s too cold or dark or cloudy or wet. Or usually all four.

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  30. Wow, you sure captured the drudgery of February, Andrea, and the heaviness of the end of winter. It seems, too, that many people die in this part of the new year; adding more challenge and grayness. I save my vacations for this time of year and go to tropical spots, and oh, does that ever lift the spirits. Today I opened the window and in this time of “the corvids,” a raven, then the mate, glided by me, wings rhythmically whispering. I enjoyed your resolution at the end too, my friend. Your writing is a pleasure to read, and the photos were wonderful.

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  31. Your beautifully-written post makes me think of the ways in which the locale affects our perspective. The weather can sometimes be the single most important factor in my day; here in Southern California, it is most often sunny, which makes me feel energetic, mobile, excited about the things on my itinerary. Recently, we have had a lot of rain, much needed to cure the long drought of the past several years. I had almost forgotten about the beautiful flowers that used to grow beside the freeway near the mountain foothills until they reappeared this year. The rain, though lovely, and though a blessing, still tends to provoke sadness and sullenness for me (my father was the same way, though my mother and bonus father love the rain and chill of Washington state). I know many who are emotionally oblivious to the weather, something that continues to surprise me nonetheless. May your spring be rejuvenating, Andrea!

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    • Thanks Carla. Usually the rain makes me feel exhilarated, if melancholy. I think February doubt are less about that weather as about the transition of the season – I’ve noticed it’s this particular transition that always feels a little hard – but spring is here and change is on the way.

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  32. I don’t write anything political or issue driven. I write about emotions and experiences. I write to help people escape and to capture experiences and share them.

    I felt very inspired by these lines: “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.”

    When you doubt, please know you are one of my favorite blogs to read and I always always always come away better from it. Hugs.

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