Last Sunday I was at the market buying my favourite brew (black tea with roasted barley and ginger), and I got chatting to the chap behind the stall. It was the last day of winter. A chilly wind was blowing off the mountain and the air was soft with fine drizzle. He and I were both rugged up and beanied. ‘Beanies’, he said. ‘Where’d you be without them’. He said he wished you could have a beanie for your life – something snug and warm that you could contain it in.
Winter does that for me. It insulates. Long darknesses encase the day. Beyond the tunnels of my burrow brisk, cold walks invigorate my body and feed the soul, while the burrow itself and the hearth within it shape my internal world. I light a fire and make myself a pot of the above-mentioned tea. I find a book. I put a record on the gramophone. A bowl of walnuts and a nutcracker are positioned within easy reach. I wrap Uncle Ratty’s herringbone bothy rug around my shoulders, ease myself into the armchair and put my hind paws up on Great Uncle Mole’s Egyptian pouffe. Winter is a time for resting, musing and incubating.
We have had such a good winter this year: a number of frosts and even a snowfall. It has been cooler for longer, but still I am not ready for the spring.
I am not impervious to the new season’s loveliness. Today winter and spring, day and night are perfectly poised. This morning I set out in the still cool morning. There had been a frost in the night. It was not pitch dark. There was the slightest lightening of the sky already. It was a deep indigo and the stars were still bright. By the time I reached the reserve it was light enough to walk by the half-moon. The crunch of my paws scampering over twigs and leaves was accompanied by early birdsong, chirpier than it has been, trilling even. As the sun rose its beams caught the trunks and leaves of the gum trees, and the bright yellow of wattles in full bloom punctuated the needly silhouettes of casuarinas.
And September is such a delicious word. It’s the mb, I think: ember, embed, jumble, crumble amble, mumble, amber, rumble, tumbler, limber. Until recently, all my associations with it have been joyful. It is a yellow month. In the northern hemisphere it is filled with yellowing leaves and fields of sunflowers, and here, not only the wattle but daffodils.
My unease with the oncoming of spring is a manifold thing and perhaps I would do well to unravel it into its component parts of memory, time, season, and my own little mole body.
For most of my life this month has been filled with celebrations of birthdays and arrivals. Now those anniversaries are tinged with traces of death, departure and loss, although no longer enough to extinguish the warm-heartedness of September.
But while I am happy to embrace September on its own, it has undeniably foreshadowed the last quarter. It has felt like the beginning of the hurtle towards the year’s end which held for me the sense of life passing, a time of reckoning, a judgement on things intended but not done.
In the past as I have moved into spring and summer, boundaries have become porous. Spring has whispered distractions. My mind has leaked and and scattered. The unease has grown with the relentless increase of daylight hours, the march towards the glare and heat and noise of summer. A queasiness has infused me. My brain has begun to melt. Concentration, inspiration, focus, calm, and quiet energy have become distant memories.
It might have been the imminence of spring that made me yearn for the the breathing space my amanuensis so kindly imposed on me last week; a breathing space that made moments stand still and gave me a sense of space and quiet. I wonder whether this removal of distractions, this reduction of things to be absorbed might be a way of taking the sting out of the hurtle.
Maybe I could hold each month as I do September – as an entity with its own particular attributes, distinctive from the previous or the next; find some way to celebrate it in its own way. Or I could take a broader sweep and look forward to summer as the foreshadower of autumn and winter and beanie containedness.
And perhaps I could take my walks earlier and earlier so that it is always dawn when I reach the summit.