Category Archives: Seasons

Spring and courting birds

I expect there are a great many birds out there right now establishing territories and seeking mates. I don’t know all of my feathered neighbours well enough to spot the changes in what they do. However, the blackbirds and woodpeckers have been really noticeable over the weekend.

The blackbirds seem – in so far as I can tell – to be squabbling. It doesn’t look much like courtship at this stage, more like figuring out who gets which spot. I’ve stepped outside repeatedly only to find them making a great deal of noise and chasing each other off. It’s not always easy with birds to work out whether chasing is about the desire to catch or the intention to move the other bird on. However, the tone seems irate to me.

The woodpeckers are simply making a lot of noise – often I don’t see the birds themselves. I hear their loud calls even through closed windows, and they’ve been doing this for some days. It’s rare to hear them normally, the intensity of calling has definitely gone up. I am inferring courtship, but this could be about territory. Most of my reason for inferring courtship is that I know they’ve bred round here in previous years. You don’t tend to get as high a population density in woodpeckers as you do in blackbirds so boundaries may be less of an issue. Yesterday I saw a pair of woodpeckers in flight – some distance from home, but possibly the same ones.

What I notice and what I infer may tell me things about what’s on my mind. I do not assume messages from any other source when I notice things in this way. The blackbirds and woodpeckers are busy with their own lives. Any meaning I take from them pertains to me, and I think it’s important to be clear about that. Nature does not exist simply to send us messages and guide us.


First leaves

It feels too early. I’d expect the fruit trees to start flowering around now, but there are leaves unfurling on a number of trees as well – most notably the elders in the more sheltered spots. I can remember springs when there were very few leaves until April and one year, May. Spring did not used to start before March round here.

The garlic is coming up, it too is early. I’d expect to see the first shoots about now, but we’ve got whole leaves out there, and lots of them.

At the margins all kinds of small, leafy plants are appearing. Again, too much, and too soon.

This is a friendlier face for climate change. On the plus side, a longer growing season will take more carbon out of the air. Even so, it is a manifestation of the chaos we are causing.

When talking about climate chaos online I’ve had people ask me what I’m afraid of and what I imagine will happen. I can only assume some people must be really disconnected from the world not to know that change is already here. We have chaos. We have storms the like of which I’ve never seen before at a frequency that is startling. Places that didn’t normally flood are under water.

It’s going to be expensive. My hope is that short term climate chaos will prove expensive enough to focus the minds of people who want to carry on with business as usual. It’s not so easy to turn a profit when you’re on fire, or underwater. I hope that there is still time for a bit of waking up and getting real.


Imbolc in nature

Round here, the snowdrops and catkins come out typically a week or two before the calendar date for Imbolc. So, if you go with the date, these seasonal markers aren’t the ones to focus on. If there are pregnant or lactating sheep in area, I don’t get to see them.

What does appear reliably at this time of year, are elf caps. These are a small, red fungi (see the video below for examples!). They have a much longer season over all, but where I live, they are absolutely something that shows up for the start of February.

The relationship between what the rest of nature is doing, and the calendar date varies according to where you live. Druidry can be a bit generic about seasonal celebration, which I think is a real weakness. We need to dig in with whatever we’ve got where we live, and make that the focus, or shift our dates so they match what the season means to us.

 


Flowers in the ice

This point in January often combines the first signs of spring with some of the most intense manifestations of winter. And so we get flowers in ice.

Yesterday I noticed that the hazel catkins are opening. They’ve gone from small, tight green potential to open, yellow and active. The alder trees have catkins on too, and the tips of their branches are slightly reddened by the presence of those flowers. Trees have male and female (from our perspective) catkins. If you’re new to all this, have a look at this article – https://www.woodlandtrust.org.uk/blog/2018/12/which-trees-have-catkins-and-how-to-tell-them-apart/

Yesterday I also saw my first snowdrops of the year, some daffodils in bloom, a primrose and I’ve seen a lot of bulbs putting up leaves in the last few days.

This morning the temperature was down to minus 3, and the frost that was on the ground yesterday is still here. Puddles have become ice sheets. The mud has frozen solid. This is the most wintery it’s been this season, and yet at the same time, the first flowers are appearing. That’s normal, and I might choose to read some significance into it.


Time outside time

This is the time of year when I tend not to notice any seasonal shifts. Nothing much is growing. The catkins on the trees were there a month and more ago, and aren’t open yet. The first flowers should be a few weeks away. We may have moved past the solstice, but in practice I’m not feeling much return of the light – the overcast skies often negate any feeling of longer days.

Where I live, there hasn’t been much weather drama. It’s cold, but not freezing. There are no predictable patterns – the whole winter could go like this or we could get a sudden dip in temperature, frost, ice, winter storms and so forth.

It’s a time of waiting, for me. Waiting for the light to return. Waiting to see what challenges I might have to contend with. Waiting for spring. I think many wild things are waiting at this point – be that seeds in the ground, seasonal migrants, or anything else that will crack on with life changes when spring comes. Of course some creatures are already underway – deer mate in the autumn. Mammals giving birth in the spring may well be pregnant already, or pairing up. The hibernating female bats are pregnant, although those pregnancies won’t really get going until spring wakes them.

Mostly I want to hibernate too. Thankful not to be pregnant ready for the spring. I find the longer hours of darkness gives me the urge to sleep more. I’m at the same time affected by personal-seasonal changes in my own body and not sleeping well. I am out of kilter with some things, and perfectly aligned with others, and I think that’s often the way of it.

Modern Paganism tends to foreground the sun cycle as something to be in tune with. However, when you look at any season, what creates its distinct flavour and energy isn’t just the sun, but the way other living beings respond to it, and to each other. There’s always diversity. Hungry migrant birds are not in the deep sleep of winter. The owls outside my flat are active for much longer each night because the darkness is for them. There’s always something to empathise with, even when the sun cycles don’t resonate with your experiences.


Looking ahead, and something like resolutions

I changed tack with New Year resolutions some time ago, having figured out I was just using it as an opportunity to beat myself up. No diets for me anymore. No unworkable aims to somehow bully my body into being thinner despite that never having worked for me. Instead, I started coming up with ideas and aspirations to improve my life. That’s gone well. Last year I was short of ideas. This year, I am not.

I need to plant trees. This has been a thing for me for more than a decade, but until now I haven’t seen how to do it. I don’t have a garden at the moment. I do however have a cunning plan that will, in the coming year radically change my life as a whole, and move me towards the orchard I long for. More of this as I go along.

I aspire to having my normal working week be under 30 hours, and to work a four day week. That won’t be feasible around events, but I want to do it when I can. I will use the time this gives me for taking better care of myself, and doing non-economic things, like planting trees. I will read more, dance more, live differently.

I will spend more time in wilder places and at the coast.

I’m making the headspace to think more about how we do Druidry in the current political climate and in face of climate disaster. I’m going to be taking about that more as we go along.

I’m going to learn Welsh.

I want to wake up in the morning and wonder what I will be doing that day, and get to decide – clearly not all the time, but at least some of the time. I want to start the day feeling excited about what it might bring me.

I want to spend more of my working time doing work I am genuinely excited about. This looks increasingly realistic.

I’m going to treat my happiness and wellbeing as important – which I’ve not really been doing. I’ve got to the point where I can afford to, and there is no one who needs me to do otherwise. I’m going to re-invent my life, on my own terms, and in collaboration with the people who are choosing to be part of my life.


Looking back at the year

While the calendar change from one year to another is an arbitrary thing, is creates a useful point for contemplation. It’s good to stop from time to time and take a look at your life and ask what’s working and what isn’t. As I blog about this each year I also have something I can easily look back at to see where I was last time. A lot has changed for me, it turns out.

This time last year I had no ambitions, no creative sense of direction. I wasn’t really excited about anything and my major aim for the year was to daydream more and try to find something to want to do. Over the year I’ve found new forms I want to work in, people I want to work with and an array of projects that I’m excited about. It’s put me on a totally different footing.

It’s been a challenging year. I’m not sure I get any other sort! I’m conscious of wanting things to be a bit easier, or at least to have times of respite and rest so that I can re-charge. I’m trying to make that space and to see what would help me feel better. I need to make more time for things that nourish and uplift me. I think most people do. I think we get a lot of spiritual and emotional input that’s about as good for our hearts and minds as a diet of Haribo would be for our bodies.

I’ve become better at boundaries over this last year, and a good deal more willing to say no and walk away when something doesn’t work for me. I’ve become less anxious. I’ve started asking some really big questions about the kinds of relationships I have, and have had with people, what I really want and who I can do that with. I’m finding my people. I’m finding the spaces where I don’t mute myself and second guess everything. I’m recognising the people who want me as I am, and who I can afford to trust with that.

Tai Chi has had a big impact on me over the last year. It’s changed my relationship with my body. I’m tackling the impact of hypermobility as a consequence. I’m building strength around troubled joints and learning how to move in ways that cause me less pain. For the first time in my life I’m confident that my pain issues aren’t me making a fuss, and that I need to take it seriously and am entitled to look after myself. Between the Tai Chi and some of my interactions with people, I’ve become more patient as well.

Creatively it’s been an interesting year. I started a mumming side and took that to a few events. I got a singing group going with mostly the same people, and there are plans for taking that forward. I’ve focused more on my voice because problems with hand pain have made musical instruments tricky. I’m now exploring ways to not have the hand pain and getting on top of that is a new aspiration. There have been some collaborations, and more to come, and I’ll be sharing more about that here in the coming weeks.

I feel, for the first time in years, that I am on the right track. I’m doing what I need to be doing and I know where I need to go. All kinds of things are falling into place for me. I find that happens when I’m working along the right lines. It helps that when I know what I want, I can spot what will serve that.

I’m in the odd place of being horrified and alarmed about the state of the world, and also hopeful about my own direction for the coming years. It’s strange territory, emotionally, but perhaps it will keep me honest and useful in equal measure.


Midwinter ravens

I recorded this little film for the Pagan Federation online festival this winter. It was done at short notice and I’d not been well so I do not look great, but there we go. I’m very much in favour of being able to share your face when you don’t look like a photoshopped twenty year old!

A few thoughts about ritual at midwinter, and a story about ravens…


Seasonal Cold

The temperature often defines how I experience winter days and what I’m able to do. A milder year is likely to be wet, and while that’s no joy to be out in, the footing is safer on tarmac. In wet winters, paths that aren’t hard surfaced can become unwalkable with all the mud – which makes walking slow and hazardous. A warmer, wetter winter means more cloud and less sun, which has an impact on my body chemistry.

I can enjoy a crisp, sharp winter day – the bright blue skies and crystalline clarity. However, these tend to go with colder conditions. Icy ground is more likely to give me numb feet, running the risk of chilblains. There’s the risk of falling. My entire body will be sore to a greater degree in really cold conditions – so being out is a mixed bag. I weigh the attraction of sunlight and fresh air against the state of my body.

Of course, a warmer winter is much more easily dealt with indoors. Cold weather makes it harder to keep warm. I can afford to heat my home at the moment, but not everyone can. Being cold all the time is exhausting and if you are ill in any way, that illness will be made more miserable. It’s difficult to relax and harder to sleep when you aren’t warm enough. It will also make you hungry, and anyone choosing between heating and eating won’t have a budget for extra food.

The winter days I like most are clear and bright, but a degree or two above freezing. Enough to seem like winter without causing any problems. They’re rare, but when they come round, I treasure them.


Sliding into winter

Over the last few days, there have been heavy frosts, and ice on the ground at night where I live. For me, this means winter is definitely here. It’s a localised definition. There are parts of the UK that have already had some snow – but, down in the balmy south west of the country, it’s possible to go a whole winter and not see any. What winter means varies a lot depending on where you are.

I become very aware of my body in these conditions. My balance – or lack of it. How readily my hands and feet go numb in the cold. I also note that I’m doing a bit better this year on both of these – I’m less panicked by slippery ground, and I’m not having quite the same degree of circulation problems. There’s only been one significant change in my life since last winter and that’s the Tai Chi, so it could be that both shifts relate to that. I think it has improved my balance. It’s given me body knowledge about ways of walking carefully so I can do that without having to over-think it. I was told it might improve my circulation, and this is the first evidence this could be happening.

How we experience the seasons combines body and location, health, affluence, resources – it can be incredibly revealing. What’s easy often goes unnoticed, so if winter is easy for you it may be worth spending some time with that and asking why.