I can’t quite decide if the distinct turning point I sense on the first of January each year is actually a real thing or all in my head. It’s as if there is a 180 degree shift in nature: before the new year everything is in decline, but from the first of January, those very same plants are suddenly on the ascent.
Perhaps it’s actually the solstice that is the turning point. For sure, the very first yellow-gemmed aconite pops its head up within a day or two of the 21st of December. Almost as if it has been sitting, waiting, just under the surface, making sure we definitely reach that shortest day; not happy to risk coming up above ground until we all breathe a sigh of relief that we’re through the worst of the dark days.
Perhaps my brain just notes the first of January for neatness, or due to the distractions of Christmas. Or perhaps this change can’t really be pinpointed to any specific time. But whatever it is, the hope and renewed energy I feel each and every January is certainly not just my imagination.
Whereas December saw the faded stems of perennials and the burnt, fallen leaves from the trees, suddenly it’s the tiny fresh foliage bursting out from the crowns and the fattening buds on the branches that we see. As if we have come into the new year with new lenses that filter out the death and hone in on new life.
We no longer see the empty woodland voids where the dog’s mercury has collapsed; we see the pheasant, naked in all its splendour, exposed for us to enjoy.
We see the strong, yet delicate, blooms holding fast to previously bare branches on a cold, frosty morning; a symbol of resilience if ever there was one.
We notice the tiny details of a myriad of moss, clutching to every available damp surface, all jostling to claim their space.
Everywhere you look there is promise of the new year. Promise of growth and renewal; anticipation of an even better year than last; excitement of the surprises that nature has in store.
The first signs are there to be discovered, but all is still to play for; anything could happen. Knowing the reveal each day will gather pace of its own accord and that a garden will start to appear before you; it’s impossible not to feel enormous, tangible hope and excitement.
Even the stream through the woodland has turned its corner. No longer clogged with leaves, it seems to have flushed itself through whilst we were celebrating New Year’s Eve: today it runs fast and clear, bursting with new-found vigour.
Yet January’s light is soft and gentle, easing us into this new beginning most tenderly. The pond is still, it’s calm; a mirror with not a scratch to its surface.
The wildlife and the sheep continue along in their stoic way; the ever-present robin never far away, searching for juicy worms as I ruffle the soil.
The animals provide stability and continuity in a world of plants that has flip-flopped overnight. So much has changed; and so much remains. The yin and the yang of nature.
And so, we clear the fallen twigs and branches from the wilder end of the year; we pull those earliest of nettles before they reach their heads too high; and we breathe in the fresh, crisp air with wonder, gazing around, drinking everything in and dreaming of what might be.
Things feel relaxed, they feel measured, nothing’s moving too fast. It’s a time to just be for a while, to lose yourself in your hopes and dreams for the coming months. To absorb and be at one with the garden. A time to see those details you might otherwise busily rush past.
And so, as the garden slowly starts afresh, we erase from our minds all the mistakes and failures of yesteryear. We leave the dried, brown, December stems behind and we move on, reinvigorated, steeling ourselves for the inevitable toil of the season to come.
Anything is possible in the new year ahead.