I think where it started to go wrong for me was having one bad winter and consequently dreading the next. This has meant that my mental attitude to the last few winters has been dread of their arrival and, once arrived, just wishing that spring would come. This is a passive state and one in which winter is just a uniform block of time, not a succession of days or events marking the turn of the yearly cycle towards spring, with its figurative and literal re-birth. Uniform blocks of time tend to just sit there looking all grey and immovable, so it is hardly surprising then that winters of late have appeared to outstay their welcome.
So, how to form a more active relationship with winter and the seasons in general? This will be a core theme of this blog as we try to engage more with what is different in winter and what it can offer us that other seasons can’t. Celebrations such as Halloween, Bonfire Night, Christmas and New Year all play an established part in celebrating the dark as well as marking the passing of time and looking towards a new beginning, but what else? A fairly obvious difficulty with living in towns and cities as so many of us do is the loss of our connection with nature. Nature provides a detailed commentary on the turning of the seasons if only we remember to look. This sounds obvious but it is easy to forget; I well remember reading Thomas Hardy’s Tess of the D’Urbervilles, a novel very much concerned with the seasons, when I had lived in London for a number of years and realising that many of the natural markers of the progress of time that I had been surrounded by when living in a more rural area and working on a farm were now hidden from me.
Accessing nature in cities is problematic but usually possible; it may not be open countryside but I suspect that it can still do the job. To test this I have decided to take a weekly walk around my nearest bit of nature, noting the changes in the trees and plants as a way of actively engaging with the passage of time. Despite being in an inner city suburb I am lucky enough to live next to a Victorian cemetery covering 27 acres so this is where I will regularly check in with winter and see where it’s got to. I will also take photos from the same two spots to publish on the blog and provide a visual calendar as we go along, starting here. At the moment it is still very green but the leaves are falling, the rowan berries are fading to orange and soon it will be looking decidedly wintry.