I’ll be forgiven, I hope, for my tardy blogging. A cold and damp start to the year in my head as well as in the air around me. Since Christmas I’ve had dreams of seeing and not seeing, of sights vanishing before my eyes waking only to discover that the world is still foggy. I didn’t write throughout January, February or March and now it is almost the end of April, how did that happen? My ‘almanac’ of thoughts and responses to the world around me has been kept inside afraid to come out until it seemed safe to do so. That might be now.
Almanac (noun)’ an annual calendar containing important dates and statistical information such as astronomical data and tide tables’.
In my almanac, I haven’t been able to see this data, these dates and times of the tide and the movement of stars across the sky for so many weeks now. I know I’m not alone. So many of us have felt this, too many lockdowns too many hours spent trapped with our own private nightmares. As the seasons shift and change and recharge themselves inside my head, I’ve had a word with myself, enough is enough.
I worked long, long hours as the evenings drew in like darkling things unable to tell some days where the day started and ended but then little by little the light started to creep back in always reminded, as Imtiaz Dharker says in her sonnet, ‘The Trick’, that ‘shadows live where there is light’. It was very hard some days to forget this. But then her sonnet was written in response to Shakespeare’s love Sonnet 43 where he declares that ‘When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see’. Only in sleep are his eyes ‘bright in dark directed’. But wherever there is light, there is shadow and April promises that shadow will be banished if only for a while and, ‘bright in dark directed’, our eyes seek out the light of springtime.
April is a month of sunshine and showers, a cold snap of a month. My real almanac tells me that ‘the Romani name for April means “month of rains”’. April showers will drop on your head as though someone has opened a bag of ice cold water from the clouds above. I learn that the reason for these frequent cold showers comes from the same atmospheric conditions which caused the bright gusty winds of March which, here by the sea, are as insistent as the tick of time. They insist that winter is hanging on to my coat tails yet promise me that spring is within the reach of a fingertip. April promises more but the bite of the air tells another tale. ‘The sun is hitting the ground at an ever-steeper angle and so the land has started to warm up all around us, but the great thermal mass of the sea lags behind, clinging on to the chill of January and February,’ my almanac tells me. A very dear writer friend gave me this almanac for Christmas and I love it. It explains the seasons to me and helps me to listen to the seasons instead of skimming them. I read about April at the wide awake hour of the morning when Fleur Adcock’s poem ‘Things’ comes to mind with its reminder that: ‘There are worse things/than not being able to sleep for thinking about them’. But at 4 a.m. it doesn’t seem as though there are worse things and there they come ‘stalking in/and stand icily about the bed looking worse and worse and worse.’ And they keep on coming.
But eventually, you sleep.
In the morning, which is today, the sun is shining and I go out into the garden. I remember what the almanac urged me to do. The first month, January ‘the month of the snows’, it entreated me to ‘Stand barefoot on the cold earth and think: what is good about this moment.’ I did that, and felt the cold grass, the stirrings beneath the cold crust of earth and deep movement of creeping things, life beneath my feet. Do the same in February it said and March and each time it will feel it just that bit different as if the earth is opening up beneath your feet. I failed to do it in February or March but today I do it again. I discover than in April, the ground springs and dances beneath my feet. This is why I can get moving, I failed to hear the earth or the sound of it waking up and now it’s started to open its eyes. I almost missed it. The shadow is beginning to come out of the light and off I go.
Adcock, Fleur, ‘Things’ in France, L.(ed) (1993) ‘Sixty Women Poets’. Newcastle upon Tyne: Bloodaxe Books
Dharker, Imtiaz, ‘The Trick’, in Crawforth, H. & Scott-Baumann, E. (eds) (2016) On Shakespeare’s Sonnets, A Poets’ Celebration, London: Bloomsbury
Leendertz, Lia (2021), ‘The Almanac. A seasonal guide to 2021’, London: Mitchell Beazley
Shakespeare, William, ‘Sonnet 43’ by , in Crawforth, H. & Scott-Baumann, E. (eds) (2016) On Shakespeare’s Sonnets, A Poets’ Celebration, London: Bloomsbury