In the bleak midwinter…

OK, calendar geeks. This one’s for you.

I know it’s probably got something to do with an old pope called Greg, but why do we start our year today? Where, on my muddy little island at least, we are stranded in the cold, dead heart of winter. In the northern half of the world, everything is stopped. Outside, it’s damp, chill, corpse-grey.

Why doesn’t our new year start when the life rushes back into the world? When sleeping buds wake, and leaves uncurl to taste the light, and the air is alive with zooming things?

Maybe it’s because spring makes beginnings feel too easy. Newness, spilling out everywhere, unstoppable as the dawn, as breathing out.

Beginnings aren’t easy. They can feel like the end of the world. Things only grow when the sun comes back because they refused to die in the dark and the cold. Beginnings happen underground, in the silence, where no-one can see. When everything feels as dead as it could ever be.

When I started wittering online early in 2016, I’d thought that by now I’d look back, from the high-point of my current story, and be able to map how it had begun. But instead, the whole year has been me starting and re-starting, burrowing into it like a spiral, going further back and deeper down, always beginning again, and again, and again. Midway upon the journey of our life / I found myself in a forest dark / for the straightforward pathway had been lost. Damn straight, Dante. No way out of the trees but through them.

As I go on starting again, I think about my grandmother’s oil paints, bright under clingfilm on the palette, how it felt to squidge them with my finger. I think about my grandfather, writing as his seven kids tumbled about him: how though I never met him, I hear his voice telling me about a two-day walk to London, looking for work. I think of my little, kind Nanna, the expert small-child-wrangler, always only ever two heartbeats away from spinning us a yarn. About my other granddad, who laced wide ribbons around the globe as a naval engineer, all the places he set his face to, far from home.

And I think about how everything I begin had its seeds planted long ago. How so much of our stories start before we are even born. All we get to do, if we get enough new years of our own, is carry them on.

So today, as the rain falls into another dull morning, we start again. It looks as if nothing much is different, but everything has changed. It’s 2017. Time to begin.




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