After the joy and excitement of Christmas, I always feel January is a rather flat month and this year it seems to be particularly so. Now don’t get me wrong, I fight against these feelings not least because there are small pleasures to be found and we both have birthdays in Jan and early February (two Aquarians which explains a lot!!!!). The flatness seems to come from the fact that the days are very grey and we seem a long way away from the early signs of Spring and the promise of the new year. It is compounded this year by the amount of rain which has left the familiar country walks muddy and unrecognisable in parts. It amazes me that they recover but they always do!
I have reflected on January as a metaphor for the year which has just passed. There have been times when all has seemed grey but there is promise of Spring and of Summer and there will soon be early signs.
Following a letter from my sister who lives much further south, in which she notes that their first snowdrops were out, I looked in the borders and there were the first new shoots raised to about four inches above the soil. They were here when we first came and have naturalised making a glorious bank in late January and early February. For such a small flower, they have a real impact.
There are more encouraging markers – buds are swelling, holding themselves in check until just the right moment to burst when the weather warms. The odd sunny bright day when walks are a joy and there is the sun’s brightness bathes your face even though your feet may be tingling!!
Hellebores are starting to show under the protective canopy of last years now ragged leaves. These too came from a family garden, have taken ages to establish here (they probably preferred it further south too!!!) but will now go on to form a a delightful patch of antique purple flowers which last for weeks. Not for them the short flowering of some showy early bulbs; instead their nodding heads and modesty keeps them out of the worst of the rain and snow.
It is snowing now, quite lightly but with a sense that it may worsen because the sky is leaden and it is covering the ground quickly. It describes the structures which are still visible in the garden, clothing their stems and branches, outlining the shapes and highlighting remaining berries which have been missed by the birds. In Edale, although we are in January, we not yet out of the woods in terms of winter weather.
Other joys are to do with home making at this time.
Seville oranges which make their appearance in January, coming from Spain’s sunnier climes with their promise of homemade marmalade for the year. My aunt used to say that there was little so satisfying as a row of jars arranged on the work surface, filled to the brim, topped and labelled, providing a contribution to breakfasts for the year ahead. She did make exceedingly good dark marmalade and lingering over breakfast with her and other family enjoying conversation is one of my fondest family memories.
Tidying and preparedness for the coming year seems also to be a feature of the January season. The need for home office space which is controlled, clear and tidy has become more and more recognised and I find myself drawn onto reorganising my workspace. If it is tidy, I know I will find working easier, will be more inspired and able to think more clearly about how to tackle areas and problems. I will also be able to separate work from home and define the times when I am not working and my time is my own. As working from home is a reality investment now will bring rewards. And so I consider how I can make changes – reorganise the furniture, divest myself of the clutter, use the recycling list in the village and give items a new lease of life elsewhere.
It strikes me that this is a time of contemplation and also of preparedness. This helps me re frame the loss of some of the freedoms which we are all missing. We are limited in what we can do but time invested now will bear fruit later. We are not able to enjoy the outdoors as much as we might like but even close to home, life stories are being started which will culminate in bursting buds in Spring, full flowers in summer and a bounty in Autumn.
Planning that bounty with seed catalogues in front of the fire is yet another illicit pleasure at this time and one to which I will dedicate much time this weekend.
Keep warm and safe