One thing that’s true to say about the half of winter before Christmas is that there is usually plenty to keep a person busy and occupied, though whether that is helpful in managing winter mood problems I’m not sure. The last couple of weeks have been very full, involving good things like putting up the Christmas tree, going to a Scandinavian Christmas market, enjoying a lovely evening of dark food at Jo’s house and making Christmas puddings (something I particularly enjoy because I can get my young lad to help me stir, as I used to help my mum); and not so good things like filling in a job application, Christmas shopping and generally thinking ‘only how many days left?’.
During this time I did manage another walk round the local cemetery and noticed a big difference. Nearly all the leaves had fallen and even the rowan berries were almost done, so that everything but the grass was brown, grey or black, the leaves on the ground dull and fading with no life left. I have said before that it is this loss of colour that makes the heart of the winter most difficult for me, and here we now are. So I am grateful for the cheerful trimmings of yuletide at this point, which will carry me through to New Year.
I am also grateful for properly noticing something that I have seen before but never really thought about; I find that this happens a lot in life, when my own change in perspective or focus helps me really recognise something for the first time, though I may have noticed it before. On my cemetery walk I was giving some of the trees a close look, the idea being that I pay close attention to any changes through the winter, when it hit me that they already have their buds ready for spring. It’s easy to think that trees do their growing in the spring and summer then start from scratch in the spring; in fact they have made a head start by the time the leaves drop in autumn, meaning that all through the winter they carry the tightly furled spring leaves, hidden but latent, coiled and potent and waiting for the right moment to start their cycle all over again. This cheered me considerably, and challenged my idea of winter as a dead season. As do evergreens, and there is plenty of holly – that shows greenest when all the groves are leafless – in the cemetery, some with berries and some without. I will be glad of its unending greenness over the next few months, as you can see below it’s not looking that cheerful otherwise