January has been cold and it snowed a lot. Just getting around the village in all the snow and ice has been hard work. Dave spent a good amount of time cutting and bringing in firewood. We shovelled a lot of snow in the car park, sometimes just finishing to clear the car out as the snowplough made it up and formed a new bank of snow to clear away. The villagers skidded around on quad bikes and in wellies to tend their animals and cut firewood. Muffled grumblings about the winter weather and all the extra work emerged from layers of winter clothing.
We were both feeling a bit down at the start of the month. Winter hardships and covid restrictions combined with our lack of productive activity added up to a lifestyle that wasn’t very satisfying. We can’t change the weather or the pandemic, but we have made some changes at home. We switched up our routine to free each of us up for parts of the day. We also decided to liberate some of our savings to allow us to get on with things whilst Dave is still looking for work. That allowed us to buy in firewood and heating fuel so that Dave can spend time building the house instead of just keeping us warm. And we bought some materials and tools for the next building project too.
We had a visit from the local carpenter, who trekked up the snowy track with us one day to talk about making two of our windows. We discussed the options, made our decision and put in our order.
We decided what materials were needed for the bathroom wall, made trips to the DIY store and took turns carrying the stuff up to the house during breaks in the snow. Then Dave managed to get started on the construction – he put up some plasterboard on the ceiling first. Next he put up the top and bottom rails. Then he got his old work contract reinstated with the company he used to work for, so he has a bit of work coming in. It’s a relief financially but a strain on getting anything else done.
Leona just keeps on growing. She has gained a lot of confidence on her feet and often insists on doing the whole evening walk without holding our hands at all. She loves making us laugh by pulling funny faces or trying to blow raspberries on our tummies. She is a keen little helper around the house, passing us pegs to hang up the laundry, putting peels in the compost bucket, and passing logs in when we’re stacking firewood.
Dave and I have been growing too, and it’s noticeable that there has been a positive shift in our relationship this month. All those years that I’ve spent mulling, learning and talking things through in the background of our lives have finally culminated in tangible change for both of us. Over the years, I have been working away at a lot of things that have been problematic for me personally – I had some counselling sessions and no longer suffer depressive episodes, I sleep better, I stress less, I eat more healthily, I express my feelings more easily and I listen better. It’s only now that I’ve been feeling more settled in my own self that I have had the capacity to hear what Dave needed too. It’s been nice to take the things I’ve learned and work through some of our thorny issues together and share the positive effects. Of course we still disagree, argue and get frustrated with one another, but it feels a lot easier to manage now that there aren’t any more elephants in the room.
In the last week of January the snow melted and the sun came out. There are daisies popping up everywhere, buds about to burst open and the warmth is returning to the land. There were leafy greens for the picking and we enjoyed making salads again. I harvested some large black Spanish radishes, rocket, kale and other greens, and I dug up some marshmallow root for drying. I sowed some peas too.
On the first of February the neighbour’s mimosa tree was in flower, the primroses were out, the birds were singing and it felt like the beginnings of spring.
Learn & Grow
The start of February marks the start of spring and a festival called Imbloc in the Celtic tradition. The festival falls on a day around the first of February when lambing season starts, spring sowing begins and the blackthorn blooms. This day is when the Cailleach (the old woman of winter) is reborn as Bride (the spring maiden).
Imbolc is said to be the day when the Cailleach gathers her firewood for the rest of the winter. Legend has it that if the weather is fine, that means that she wishes to make winter last a good while longer and is using the fine weather to collect plenty of wood. If the weather is foul, the Cailleach is asleep and winter will soon be over.
Imbolc is a day to light fires and candles to mark the strengthening of the sun, to do spring cleaning and visit holy wells as a symbol of purification. This year, I hope that spring brings with it not just warmer, longer days, but also some hope of a reduction in covid cases, more vaccinations and the prospect of hugging our loved ones again in the not-too-distant future.