I had that pathetic look on my face this morning. That same one I get each year about this time when I look up at my husband, and say: “I’m not going to be able to cope. I won’t get through another Winter!”
And bless him, he does his annual reply: “Yes, you will. You say it every year, and every year you survive”.
Whether it’s my underactive thyroid or the fact I’m an Aussie girl and would choose 40C over 15C, or worse: freezing, any day of the year, I simply can’t bear being cold. It hurts. I want to cry with the pain.
Our 300-year-old cottage in Winter
And so here we are again. About to step into the long abyss known as Winter. Frankly, I’m still waiting for Summer so I can’t understand how this can possibly be. Wait a minute! Somebody stop this from happening. I haven’t even harvested my courgettes! And my sunflowers aren’t even close to being in bloom. Don’t cheat me!
The nights are drawing in. I wake to thick mists hanging about in my garden as if they own the damn place. Every inch of my being tries to fight the inevitable. I will no longer be able to spend hours outdoors, trying to soak up feeble English rays of sunshine. Within weeks, my favourite chore: hanging washing on the line, will come to an end. My barefoot forays into the garden will become like a long-forgotten dream.
It is, indeed, a time for gathering in. For these past few months I’ve had the pleasure of having my daughters home. My elder daughter is about to start her second year of university (studying music), and my younger daughter has only one year left before leaving for uni. As they prepare to go back out into the world this week to continue with their chosen education paths, I am mentally and physically preparing myself for the deep, dark days ahead.
What gets me through the damp, dreary, endless grey and ice cold? Being a writer! As a writer, I get to romanticise the Winter. Waking in the dark, I quietly step outside to the porch and gather armfuls of wood to light the woodstove. I set the scene for the writing day. Incense burns, and still dressed in my fleecy pyjamas, I tumble headlong into a world of love, loss, transformation, hope and whatever else my characters have planned.
My writing room
In my writing life, Winter brings me endless hot drinks (oh wait, that’s my husband!). Thick woolly socks comfort my toes, while I tap at the keyboard willing my cold fingers to thaw out.
Gifts of Autumn
At some point in the day, I go to the gym—fighting the elements that keep me a slave to the indoors—so I can give respite to my chair-bound body. But even then, the writer in me will find something romantic about it.
These seasons for ‘gathering in’ have a purpose. It’s a time to go within ourselves and review our life, our journey, our relationships, and our dreams. We actually need to pull back from the hectic busyness of modern life, and although we can still live 24/7 lives due to electricity, I do believe for many people there is something about the dark time of the year which causes them to slow down (even if only a little).
There is romance to be had when I am snuggled up on the sofa beneath a blanket, hot water bottle in my lap, woodstove roaring, reading by candlelight.
The writer in me creates stories with every apricot-hued sunset and frosty leaf. As I gather in, I gather in Nature too. She continues to feed my soul and my imagination even when to the average eye it might seem that all the world is bare and empty. I am fed by fallow fields and trees bereft of leaves. Red-breasted robins amuse me while I wash the dishes.
I dream of owning a big-arse Aga that keeps every inch of my home warm and toasty. Alas, I’m not likely to own one any time soon. What to do? Give my main character the Aga of my dreams. Given how much time I spend in her kitchen anyway, I am content to keep warm at her expense.
As I gather in my energy, I am so grateful for my imagination and that it is my greatest tool for sustaining me through another British Winter. I also use that same imagination to dream of when I return to Australia for my brother’s wedding in 2017. I can already feel that 40C warming every single cell of my body. In my mind, I gather that heat inside me and use it to warm my heart. My husband is right: I will get through another Winter.