I wake on the last day of January with a strong urge to tidy the house. With all four of us at home, all the time, the ebb and flow of our days leave great swathes of detritus scattered on surfaces, tidemarks of successive tsunamis of overwhelm. I am sick of them. Today I am resolved to wash them clean.
I have felt myself waking up gradually over the last week or so, emerging from the dense fug of January when a constant thrum of desperation that somehow Things Kept On Going despite winter, despite a pandemic, despite the relentless awfulness of everything played on an endless loop, like the rain. Lately, something has been shifting, new thoughts emerging, fresh shoots of energy pushing through the density like the tiny lips of green that I begin to spy beneath autumn’s blackening leaves. They delight me, and I am doubly glad to realise that I can feel it. I am gardening again, pruning and clearing, lifting and dividing things, planting out neglected autumn-sown winter veg plantlings between sprouting garlic, still planting the last of the surviving sale bulbs and the first of this year’s plant orders. Little of this seems to be recommended, but the soil isn’t frozen, so as long as my fingers stay the same, I carry on when I can, often stopping only when the light fails me. I catch myself dancing while doing the washing up, hips swaying to the music of a non-existent carnival. Rising sap.
On the last day of January I resolve to put away the Christmas decorations, taken down reluctantly and late, but then abandoned in the box room, when exhaustion from the effort of dismantling the season’s cheer overcame me. This room has become my husband’s home office. He has broken his wrist and sits in this tiny space doing important things for patients he can no longer touch, and I know it is miserable for him, and I still envy his ability to mentally soar from this place while I am mired in the relentless present need of the children below. But the solid ghost of Christmas past is now piled precariously on this table shared with the hearts and pain of others; the floor is no longer visible. I hate mess and I would normally hate myself for creating this one. Nothing is normal, but it is still time to face my shame.
I tidy, and along the way I clean the oven encrusted by the never-ending carousel of home-cooked meals. I use a DIY oven cleaner recipe found on the internet, and need to open the windows and sit down when I feel faint at the strength of the peppermint oil essential drops, added by the recipe’s proportions. But the recipe works, and the faint smell of stale cooking that has haunted me in this kitchen since our arrival, despite previous attempts at conventional oven cleaning, and unnoticed by my less sensitive husband who begins to accuse me of olfactory hallucinations, finally clears. The kitchen exorcised of ghosts of inhabitants past, I move on to rearrange the entryway so that the increasingly muddy waterproofs and gloves and hats have an actual - rather than theoretical - place to belong, and while I’m at it I sort that corner of the kitchen where everything collects, and reorganise some furniture in the sitting room, and then I clean and rearrange the children’s bedroom. The novelty delights them, and they spend all day playing in the small teepee that there is now enough room to erect beside their beds. They play at summertime.
I sit in the evening, sorting through packets of seeds, playing at summertime. I realise that tomorrow will be February, that I will be able to begin sowing, that it will be Imbolc. A friend texts a link with some ways to celebrate the festival with children, and I smile to read that a spring cleaning on Imbolc Eve is traditional preparation. I wonder at this morning’s urgent urge, at the sense of awakening I have felt over the last week. I wonder about this goddess of motherhood and fertility and awakening and fire and healing holy waters; our holy spring who sings to me every day. I am not of this place and yet she speaks to me, this Brigid. I wonder what my ancestors did at this time of year and feel the additional layer of pain at not knowing, but also feel like I am being shown the way. The land remembers itself to me. It snowed this morning, January’s parting gift, and I sat in the conservatory and as fat snowflakes swirled above and around me I felt myself in the thick of nature, I felt myself as the quick of nature, and I marvel at the tiny lips of green shoots of my becoming.
February dawns and between the ordinary pandemic lockdown everyday we celebrate Imbolc. We are halfway to the equinox. Spring awakens.