The Still Times

I went for a walk in the cemetery on Sunday, when the wind and the rain had temporarily subsided, and was struck by an intense feeling of stillness. No wind, no wildlife, nothing growing; it was like being the only thing moving in a freeze frame. Even the ivy, which seems to eventually overrun everything, looked suddenly frozen as if caught in the middle of some misdemeanor. I closely inspected all the trees and bushes that have become familiar to me over the last few months; no change. Nothing. Not a new bud or berry. Quietly contemplating nature at this time is like sitting awake late in an old and empty house; the midnight of the year.

It’s hard to imagine anything growing again. I took these photos almost a month ago now but they could have been taken a few days ago as nothing has changed at all.

Cemetery chapel 15.12.13

Cemetery chapel 15.12.13

Cemetery 15.12.13

Cemetery 15.12.13

I don’t mind too much though. This winter is so far turning out quite different to the previous few; whereas before I would have been quite down about the lack of colour and dreading the next couple of months, by focusing on what is good and special about the winter and learning to sit with it and accept it I can appreciate this pause. After all it is an established pattern in my life that I prefer to follow bursts of activity and energy with periods of quiet and calm, so why not the same with the year? Summer bustle all year wouldn’t be sustainable, so I will enjoy and appreciate this restful break.

I also continue to make the most of the bare trees. I particularly enjoyed this one (I won’t know what it is until its leaves return) with its bronchial twigs. This was taken looking straight up – ‘Look up more’ is possibly the best advice I’ve given myself all winter:

Cemetery tree

Cemetery tree

As well as the cemetery, I went up to another local bit of urban ‘countryside’ with my two boys at the weekend. We got some good views over the city and had a chilly ramble across brown heather. I showed my eldest what I think were willow buds and explained that inside were the coming spring’s leaves just waiting for the right time to unfold. He said we should go back when they are starting to come through and I said that this was an excellent idea.


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