In the stillness of a half-lit house it is easy to believe that the world is at rest. There is no movement that I can perceive. No sound to crack the silence. But stillness is an illusion. My body is a commotion of movement. I breathe in and out, my heart beats, eyes blink, cells vibrate, synapses fire. When I am still, I am never motionless. And neither is the house around me. Floorboards creak and settle, radiators sigh, tiny creatures scuttle, dust motes twirl. I barely notice it, but there is motion within and around me, a ballet that never stops.
We are no more than mayflies to the earth. Like the blink of an eye against its billions of years. To us, it seems slow and solid. The ground is steadfast beneath our feet. Immovable rock, sturdy hills, venerable trees. We are confident of walking on solid ground. Confident that, barring natural disaster, the routes we take will scarcely alter. But the earth is ancient and moves at a speed we can’t always perceive. We see the evidence of movement in the measure of days and years, yet it is hard to believe that the ground on which we walk is spinning beneath us and in a constant waltz with the sun.
We may not see it, especially in the naked midwinter, but the earth is always dancing. Anyone who has ever watched a time lapse film of the landscape knows that it is not still. The plants that seem static are growing as we pass, gracefully extending shoots and unfurling flowers. Trees are pushing out buds and growing branches. Rotting vegetation is transforming into soil, rock becoming sand. The dance is taking place all around us, but it is a slow dance, one imperceptible to our vision. I have never watched a flower being born or a shoot caught in the act of piercing the soil. The shift appears to take place when we aren’t watching.
Sometimes the dance of the earth is obvious. It is there in the rhythm of the waves and the sparkle of the stars. It is visible in the phasing of the moon and the flicker of shadows. It is in the glide of a wing, the prance of hooves and the tap of feet. Weather is the earth putting on a show: the flamenco of rain, the waltz of snow. The wind is a masterful choreographer, setting leaves jigging, grasses swaying, clouds scudding the sky. It has many moods, many styles, from the subtle minuet of a breeze to the jitterbug of a gale.
At Candlemas, I look for the first signs of spring stirring in the earth and I see dancing. I see it in the burbling of the burn and the ripples on the pond. I see it in the shoots of the daffodils and the first purple crocuses rising to meet the sun. I see it in the flicker of teal and orange that is the kingfisher I first glimpsed last March. And in the snow that falls like ticker tape the next day. So when February seems dismal and bare, don’t forget that the earth is dancing. And though you may not feel like dancing – you already are.