Out on the land, the rains are here. The frost that burst pipes and hardened ground over January has softened and melted into something new. Those bright brittle New Year’s skies are gone and instead I look out to the hills and see clouds rolling in, in murky earthy tones, the shadow of the water pouring onto the land.
A freezing damp pervades the air; I hang my sodden mac up by the fire, shaking it off each time. Forget, again and again, that the soles of my sheepskin slippers are not quite proof against the damp. Pop out to herd an errant chicken or yell down to the garden, and return with cold feet and a buzz of irritation.
The rain feels appropriate. The world is in a stormy place. We are entering Pisces season, slippery shadows of fish lurking in the cold dark depths, of the river that changes levels day by day. Whose water sweeps away and rejigs the trees and rocks along the banks. Reshapes the landscape, sweeps up debris and hurls it at the walls; tumbles great trunks and tiny twigs along in it, not caring what it destroys.
The rain beats on and on, and I am ready to be done with this winter, ready for warm days to intersperse these drenched weeks, for new life to begin.
There are clues around, small hints that winter is easing. Our chickens have started laying again; their bright yolks bringing hope of golden sunshine. They’re noticing the longer days, the way sunset creeps a little further back each night, the way I no longer catch sunrises so often now.
The heron who rises slowly off the water when I walk by the river is waiting for the trout swelling beneath the surface. They’re getting bigger, enough for us to start looking at them longingly. Thinking of butter and fresh herbs and a squeeze of lemon. These fish grown fat in the freezing water over winter, who zip beneath fallen trunks as we pass.
Within my bones there’s a stirring, a feeling like a dog bounding to go for a walk. I am bored of carrying logs to the stove each evening, bored of wearing woolly jumpers and two pairs of socks. Winter feels tedious, and I am ready for something new. I want to be distracted, to find something different to look at other than bare branches. Like a new coat of fur coming through, it’s itchy. It’s uncomfortable. We’re ready to be done.
They say this is the season when most holidays get booked. Don’t we all want to be somewhere new? We deserve it, after all. We made it through the festive season and the shortest day and the buzz of January resolutions.
Now I crave the patches of sunlight. Dream of heat soaking into my bones. Have begun to long for warmth like a lover who’s been away too long. To think wistfully of my summer wardrobe. Look at my bristly legs and pallid, flabby feet and think of dresses and flip-flops and hazy lazy afternoons.
I want to be anywhere but here. Now.
In every quarter of the cycle we get to this point of transition, feeling tendrils creeping in of what’s to come. The last month of a season heightens this feeling, and February amplifies it. In September some of us are relieved to fall into cooler weather, but at this time of year it feels as though everyone’s ready for the blustery March winds to usher in something new.
I contemplate this building discomfort that characterises this month for me. And I begin to wonder if it might just be the most powerful thing there is.
It’s discomfort, after all, which spurs us to take action. Which reminds us that it’s OK to be dissatisfied, because with dissatisfaction comes change.
I wonder if the land feels the itch, the little sprouts ready to come up, feels the whisper of unbloomed flowers deep within, of new colour ready to be born.
This month is when we gather momentum, just as the stream rises. Feel the future building in us like a roar, the limitless rumble of what is coming.
Let’s not fall over our own feet with the rush to get there. Let’s allow ourselves to feel a sense of energy rising, building. Our vague dreams and visions begin to focus, to manifest. We can start to think what action we will take in Spring. About what seeds we can plant, what we will explore.
Savour this last month of winter, before the sap rises. Allow spring to build as slowly as it needs to, knowing there is no rush. There never is.
When we are ready, we will be unstoppable.
Madeleine Forbes is a writer currently living on a tiny off-grid farm in the hills of central Portugal, surrounded by a growing menagerie of dogs, cats and chickens. Originally from London, moving closer to the wild inspired her to found The Seasoned Year, helping us reconnect to seasonal cycles and the wisdom they hold.