And Spring arose on the garden fair,
Like the Spirit of Love felt everywhere;
And each flower and herb on the Earth’s dark breast
Rose from the dreams of its wintry rest.
Percy Bysshe Shelley, The Sensitive Plant
For as long as I can remember I have loved two things; poetry and the turn of the seasons. That is not to say these are the only things that I love, but can one really eloquently express the intense excitement, the delight, the delicious anticipation of spring in mundane prose? When I witness the miraculous changes that occur upon even the simplest landscapes as nature changes her coat for a new season, I admit that the desire to wax lyrical comes upon me.
In our family we follow not the Christian calendar but the Wheel of the Year. This is based on the old Celtic traditions, drawn from observing the patterns of nature. So, on February 2nd, we celebrate Imbolc. This festival, in praise of the goddess Brigid, is the first marker of spring. In England (my birth country) we would begin to look out for the first white heads of snowdrops pushing their way into the world. Their delicate bells bringing hope of lushness and warmth in the coming months, despite the cold and rain as winter overstays his welcome.
Now, though, we reside in Canada and at this time of year we don’t see the white of snowdrops so much as the white of snow. And ice. Occasionally we have a hard frost to liven things up a bit. With temperatures regularly below -15C (plus wind chill) spring feels a long, long way away.
The thing is, though, my internal calendar is still set to ‘spring’. Like an alarm going off at the beginning of February I start to feel like my skin is too tight, the air too dry, the world too small. I long to run outside wearing less than 28 layers of clothing, to lounge, to dally; instead I wrap up, I dash.
In fact it is silly because I love the winter here. I love the intense blue of the sky on a freezing day, I love the snow and its unifying beauty. I love the frozen rivers, the local ice rinks, the snow banks, the ice forts. Winter here really is an extraordinary affair and I feel lucky every year to be able to enjoy it. But still.
Still my heart beats for spring; my mind says we have a way to go. By the Equinox we will be seeing some changes, a hint of thaw, but we can still see snow and it is certainly still cold. But this is the time that the world begins to shift. The week before and the week after the equinox are a time of turbulence as the energy of the earth begins to shift. We feel it in our urge to clean, to purge, the shed the heaviness of winter in favour of new life and vigour. But still.
In England we began to plant our garden and veggie patch after Easter, here we must wait until June for reliable warmth. But we can’t resist the lure of our seeds so we spend a couple of months with a kitchen converted to a greenhouse, planting the tiny seeds with hope and expectation. We show our son how to carefully cover them, how to water them and we all hold our breath together as we wait for the miniature miracle of green against black. We create our own spring within the confines of our kitchen, flitting outside more and more as the fragile warmth and sun take hold.
Indeed this is what I am learning to do in this still new climate. I am learning to make spring something that happens on the inside. So I plan, I sew, embroider and plan some more. I begin to shed what I don’t need and emerge from my internal mental winter cocoon with a fresh approach for a new year. Through the dark nights, huddled safe and snug at home I think, learn, plot. The monochromatic world of stark beauty, of blacks and whites, yields to every colour under the rainbow as my imagination paints the world colourful again through my crafty imaginings.
When the sun returns and gives us seemingly endless days and hours in which to execute these imaginings our rhythm will change again, we will regain our spontaneity living for the next blue sky. The next adventure. I will put down my hoop, set aside my sewing machine in favour of the world outside. In favour of grass and sunlight.
All this lies tantalisingly close beneath the frosty surface of our current reality. It reminds us that the wheel is turning as it has before and will again. Spring will come as surely as winter will pass. The memory of the warmer days sustains us and reminds us to enjoy the pleasures of frozen mornings, ice skates and pink noses. Just as the thought of winter’s inevitability will make us soak up each moment of the coming warmth and life, the greening of the earth and the renewal of our spirits. But still, right now, it is still my needle that brings the colour to our everyday.
As the earth unfurls herself, stretching out after her winter slumber, so we will be renewed. We will grow, discover, plant and reap. We will shed our old skins and stand new again ready for a fresh chapter, one that we must write ourselves.
Emma Jones is an ex-pat mama of two rambunctious boys living with her beloved in the (currently) frozen north, also known as Canada. She is interested in pretty much everything and loves to bake, sew, embroider, read, garden, take pictures and write. She chronicles her life with her family on her blog, Emmalina and Her Unfeasibly Large Bonnet