I don’t like this time of year much; the gap between sun-up and sun-down being pitifully small and getting smaller; I huddle at my sunlamp or stride out on the rare days when the sun shines. I keep looking forward to the Solstice, when I know that it has become as dark as it is going to get and from then on, minute by minute it will get lighter each day.
I was reminded of this the other day, when Eliot’s poem Burnt Norton was mentioned and the line, “the still point of the turning year” was quoted. I pondered this and came out with the lines, “The year pivots, pirouetting en pointe, Dancer meets Dance: I am renewed”. But I still have four weeks to go through and because of her age and her cancer, my dog doesn’t want to walk when it’s cold and windy or wet and today when I thought she might go, she baulked, halfway down the street and decided the brisk wind was too much. We came home.
But the sun was shining and the air was mild for all the whipping wind, so I kept my coat and boots on and went out into our small garden and began a few chores. I used to love gardening but too many years of gardens too huge for me to manage alone (our last garden was about an acre) has put me off and in my mind I can no longer make the decision to potter for an hour. In the past, an hour was a mere drop in a deep, deep ocean and it was so disheartening to labour for an hour, and realise that in the grand scheme of things, you have done NOTHING, that even now, three years on, I rarely sneak out and fiddle about and do the little bits and pieces gardens seem to need.
I started by removing the dead strands of sweet pea that still twined around things, and it went from there: pruning, thinning, weeding, digging and finally sweeping all the dead leaves and bits of weed into a big pile at the end of the garden. I removed the mushy remains of the courgette plant and then reached further back in the border to pick the dead leaves off the irises. I went further and cut back the stems of the lemon balm; at several points I had to make a retreat, being warned off by one of our bees when I had clearly come too close to the entrance to the hive when she was coming in or going out. It was so mild that there was a steady stream of bees going about their business.
Now, I have scratched and nettled hands but a strange sense of satisfaction. I can look out of my bedroom window and see what I managed to accomplish in an hour and a half. I have more to do but I was starting to feel tired and the dog wanted to go in, so I put away my tools and came in for a coffee and a bagel.
Too often I put off starting a thing imagining it a task that is so huge it is better not to start unless I can finish it within a time frame that is oddly skewed. I’m doing this with house painting, but then I do know from experience this isn’t something you can stop once you start. But maybe I will wake up one morning and think, yes, today I will paint the bathroom.
There was a feeling while I was outside of being at one with my own small kingdom, of nurturing something I had been neglecting. At least tonight for once I can go to bed and feel I have done something worthwhile!