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Nature stories

Updated: Feb 5, 2022

No prizes for my photography but I was so excited to see the first daffodils blooming earlier this week, that despite it being still quite dark on my morning walk on St Brigid's Day, I had to take a picture; proof that spring is on its way. However by this morning, it wasn't just the bulbs signalling springtime, in the space of just 4 days, dawn has become noticeably earlier and it is light before I get home. I woke early one morning this week and rather than try to get back to sleep, I listened to the February episode of As The Season Turns. The ritual for the month that Lia Leendertz, host of the podcast and author of The Almanac, my go to book for seasonal advice, suggests, is to light a candle when you get up in the morning and have breakfast by candlelight; making it a way to savour the last vestiges of winter. Whilst I'm a bit nervous about wandering off and forgetting I have left a candle burning, I do love candlelight and celebrating with twinkling lights. One of my winter rituals is a pretend candle that works on a timer, so it switches on as dusk falls and goes off at bedtime, keeping our hall warmly lit for a few hours every evening. I've just finished reading Wintering by Katherine May (also available as a podcast); she talks not only about seasonal winters, but also personal winters, when things look dark and you need to turn inwards. Throughout the book she learns (and teaches us) how to invite winter in and appreciate it, and in doing so she becomes more attuned to the actual seasons, learning about the wheel of the year and its turning, and celebrating it.

Talking of books, earlier this week I attended a webinar for the re-launch of Storytelling for Nature Connection a book that draws together the environment, community and story-based learning. It was an interesting event with a varied panel; I suppose I had imagined that the world of storytelling was comprised entirely of arty people, that there was no place for science. That myth was shattered pretty quickly as the first speaker came from a scientific background and had moved into storytelling as a way to connect people emotionally with their place and the environment. I forget somehow that historically this is how we have always connected with the earth, with each other, with forces larger than ourselves and to explain our existence and the world around us. From the biblical creation story to the Aboriginal rainbow serpent to Ra the Egyptian sun god, these stories involve the heavens and the earth and all the creatures upon it.

I've been dipping into several different books over the last month. Having spent last year reading An Irish Nature Year every night, and quite often learning something new, or at least noticing something new, as a result, I was pleased to receive Nature Writing for Every Day of the Year. This is an entirely different book, pulling excerpts from a wide range of literature. Last night's entry was from The Secret Garden and was the scene where Mary is introduced to the robin for the first time by the gardener. She sees a different side of the gruff old man when he is interacting with the bird, and this experience of being part of nature is entirely new to her. This is a great time of year for spotting robins, probably the easiest bird for anyone to recognise, and I find it comforting to have their company when I'm in the garden. Not all the readings have obvious associations to nature, but that is part of the joy, that each of us have different ways to connect to nature, and as the event I was at in the week demonstrated, stories are a powerful tool for connection, and one that humans have used since time began. Finally, there is a book that so far I have only dipped into but am really excited to read, my only concern is that once I pick it up, I won't be able to put it down. Light Rains Sometimes Fall by Lev Parikian is an exploration of the British seasons through the lens of the 72 Japanese seasons. At the start of last year, before I knew of the existence of this book, I started to write down my own names for the seasons, based on the prevailing conditions. For the record I had "icy winds cut your skin" for 4th-8th February last year and it was pretty appropriate when I was out earlier, and even more so having just checked the weather forecast. I've just picked up the book now, and flipping through to find today's date and have discovered that this is when the book starts, 4th February, and if that isn't a sign, then I don't know what is. I think you all know what I'm going to be doing today....

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