It’s been quiet on the blog since Solstice. I’d like to say I’ve been hibernating, and have you imagine a nest of quilts and blankets, a stack of books, a cosy and content me, all wrapped up in stillness with a constant supply of tasty snacks. Ones that are plastic free, and don’t leave crumbs in the bed. An ever flowing pot of hot, sweet tea. My warmest socks. My ideas on hibernation are quite specific. And for now, out of reach. I hear the call of my natural longing for quiet winter reflection over the constant bustle of my children, the dishes in the sink, the pets that need tending, the never ending work lists. The thrum of life that feels so busy and non-stop, has been hitting sharply against the slowness of Midwinter and the challenging and utterly icy grip of grief.
These last couple of months have just dragged along, stretching both my patience and my longing for spring. Writing has been a struggle – so much so that I’ve barely written anything since Christmas, doing only the bare minimum to get by. My time and energy have been consumed by supporting my children through the separation of their father and I, and all the messy, huge feelings they have been processing. Not withstanding all my messy, huge feelings too.
There has been such anger and grief for me, not just at the loss of the relationship, but at realizing the person I was before it has been lost, and that somehow I’ve allowed parts of myself to be squashed up and forgotten. I am learning that this is not how healthy relationships should be, and at 44 years old, it’s something of a revelation that we do not have to put away those precious parts of ourselves when they don’t suit our lover, and that to be loved fully and wholly should not require such *self* sanctioning of all that makes us who we are. I am learning to forgive and let go of my self directed anger – the internal rage that I allowed myself to become a women less than the one I was back there at the beginning of it all. The avid read-a-whole-book-in-one-sitting, hill-walking, singing in the shower, music loving, dancing-in-the-kitchen woman that I feel a shadow of right now. Such a lot to work through and process, and at times so overwhelming. Once you’ve worked on forgiveness, how do you get your old self back?
I found myself asking this question so often since Solstice, trying to work it all out. Then in early January, as I began to untangle the knots of my feelings, and tried to slowly plot a path through to brighter days, my beloved Aunt died. She had a good, long life, was loved and respected and fierce. She could, and often did, move mountains. And I imagined she would live forever. I attribute my love of walking to her and our summer days hiking Highland hillsides. Her loss has hit me as hard as any other I have experienced in my life, but deeper somehow, because it came so unexpectedly. When we expect death, I have found that we often begin to grieve while our loved one is still with us, and step into life without them having already worked through part of the emotions of loss. The loss of my Aunt was so sudden, and has felt intricately woven into my own feelings of self-loss, being as she was, a person who knew who I was before I boxed up and put away all those vital parts of myself.
Tying the laces of my walking boots on the morning of her funeral (the only sensible foot attire for the ice and snow of January in the Highlands) was a turning point in realizing that while I may feel I have lost some of the most important parts of myself, they are still there, just waiting to be re-discovered. The me that climbed mountains, and walked the Drovers Road across Rannoch Moor. The me who walked the banks of the River Spey with my lovely Aunty Liz, watching to see if we could spot the Heron glide through the trees. As much as I have missed that me, I know now that I’m still in there, waiting for the opportunity to re-emerge, phoenix from the ashes style. If I could only work out how.
As I walked behind my Aunt’s coffin from the village church to the kirkyard, I imagined what she’d say to me about that. “Och Katherine, just get on and do whatev’r makes you happy, and it will be okay.” Always my Sunday name. And such good counsel. I miss her so. I miss that she knew me so well, and that she was always right.
There’s a quote that I love, the one that talks about being in a dark place, feeling like you’ve been buried, when actually, you’ve just been planted. And you can grow. Bloom. Sprout. Blossom. Reach out from the depths of the shit, and grasp fresh air and blue sky and new life. It’s hard to see, in the depths of Midwinter, and in the dark corners of grief, (when all you want to do is hibernate, and hunker down under quilts and blankets, warm and snug, shutting out the world and all the shite it can throw at you), that there is any hope of new beginnings, of spring. But there are little signs here and there, if we can peek out from underneath the safe warmth of bed covers long enough to look for them.
I recently enjoyed a day full of kindness and hope at the Plastic Freedom Day event, held at Star and Shadow Cinema, and organised by Plastic Free Jesmond that felt full of new beginnings. And another, supporting young people, including my own children and their friends, in their school strike for climate action.
Afterwards, I watched my youngest running about across grass stabbed through with bright green shoots, and then discovered these beautiful crocus flowers beneath a tree. Bulbs that get walked on all year round, but refuse to be downtrodden and push through all the decomposing leaves and moss and bits of fallen tree to bloom with their faces to the sun. Glorious. Inspiring. A sign if ever there was one.
Since then, I’ve been feeling my writing mojo slowly returning, like the sun is rising again. The days are getting longer and lighter. I’m carrying my grief a little easier. I’m finding time to read again, and I have plans brewing to get my walking boots back in regular use. I’ve planned a year of blog posts, ready to inspire and engage. I’ve begun the seemingly never ending task of spring cleaning my work space. It’s not going terribly well, but I refuse to be outdone by a room full of boxes, and am taking heart at each inch of newly visible floor space. I’m thinking about what we will grow in our garden this year. I’m writing articles for No Serial Number Magazine again and feeling inspired by the amazing creatives I’m meeting. I even faced my fears and spoke for a whole 40-ish minutes to a wonderful group of women at the Women’s Institute Newcastle East January meeting. Spoke. Out loud. To an audience. Me!
The swirling darkness of winter and it’s pull downwards to hibernation feels like it has less of a hold on me, and I am feeling more and more the gentle pull of change, of release, and of welcoming back in. I am remembering that it’s okay to reclaim the parts of ourselves that we thought were lost, if in breathing them back into life, we may be nourished by their presence. And that letting go of those parts of us that no longer serve us and do not bring us joy, is okay too. We can grieve them. We can hold them in our memory, let them go in peace and step out in life worn walking boots onto new paths.
My blog and everything in it will always be free to inspire and support people to live with less plastic, live more sustainably, live with less, and work to reduce the impact of climate change. It does, however, incur running costs. If you are able to contribute to these costs you are welcome to leave a tip in my tip jar here. If not, please consider sharing this post on your social media platforms. Thanks and love, Kate.