Winter Blue

A February freeze

It is the beginning of February. The ancient festival of St Brigid, of Imbolc – marking the mid point between the Winter Solstice and the Spring Solstice. Something to do with ewes in lamb. Fecundity. And the returning light. On the lawn outside my writing – and reiki – room, two blackbirds are fighting over an apple core. And in my country, here in the UK, people are fighting too, endlessly, over Brexit. But I refuse. What we need, more than ever, in these difficult times, is a connection: to the continent of Europe, to the world, and to each other. Taking care, not tearing lumps. But the blackbirds I forgive – for theirs, at least, is a necessary struggle.

Healing power of nature

Nature, always, remains a powerful solace. Even though it is bitter cold outside, the sky up above the house is a heavenly blue. There is clear sunshine – with its penetrating gaze, seeking out the dark corners, and softening them into the beginnings of a thaw. There are the sharp, feisty points of snowdrops, pushing through the crusted soil – and the yellow witch hazel is in full and spidery bloom.

January endings

It is a relief to be out of January – always a long and dreary month, full of bills and post-xmas hangovers. A time of illness and the blues. Of dying and of death. Just this year, for me alone, one funeral at the end of the first week, and one death at the beginning of the second. Neither person young – but still too young to die. Both of them integral to my life, in very different ways – leaving, as every death does, a sense of bewilderment and sadness in their wake.

There have been many, many losses in my life – and the longer one lives, of course, the more, and more grievous, they become. You think you will get used to it, but no, you never do. But perhaps the one thing you can learn along the way, is the art of self care, amidst all those heart-felt, body blows of life.

Strategies of self-healing

One of the first people I saw dying was when I was 30. It was the 1980s, the era of AIDS: of stigma, of no-cure, of Project Fear. Of course, I was frightened too. Felt sick and alarmed – had no clue how to protect myself, psychologically, nor how to help my friend have a more peaceful death. I did my best, though others did it better. And when my own husband fell ill with cancer, not many years after that, the same sick bewilderment came upon me. It took its toll, no question, body and mind.

But what I learned, from painful – and repeated – necessity, was how, when the darkness falls, to find your own source of strength and of light. The garden became a rough paradise to me, of regeneration and growth. (See A Handful of Earth).  My own beloved dog – and the joy of all animals – gave great solace. (See  Old Dog). Working with the body – through dance, dance movement therapy, T’ai Chi and the Alexander Technique (See Classes with Barney), has been  a constant support: a way to find solid ground under my feet, when the tectonic plates of grief are shifting.

The warmth of Reiki

Recently, it is Reiki that I turn to more and more, both in my professional practise, and for self healing. It is a gentle way to find a sense of calm – and lightness – when the season of the year, or of the mind, seems heavy and dark. Placing quiet hands on the heart, or on creaky knees, a sore back, or an aching head, seems so simple, it’s hard to belief its efficacy. But the stream of warmth that comes through these carefully attuned hands is real enough. Tranquillising and energising, both. A tangible support.

I wish Reiki had been there beside me, when I sat, helpless, at my dying friend’s bedside, 30 years ago. I wish I could have used it to ease my old dog’s arthritic hips; my husband’s sleepless, over-medicated, painful nights. But this has come as a late gift to me. And I endeavour to use it well – for others, and also for myself. Boundaries and balance and poise:  all there for the asking.

The melting snow

The blackbirds have disappeared from the grass now. The sparrows have filched all the birdseed and the marauding pigeons have been seen off a few times, with a sharp rap on the window from me. The thin covering of snow is slowly melting under the heat from the house and the winter sun. I find myself thinking again of veteran poet Mary Oliver – another January loss (See The Art of Stillness). How deeply she understood the relationship between all things. Her words remain both a comfort and a reminder. Only Connect. In her poem ‘Some Questions You Might Ask’ she wonders about the soul, about who has it, and who hasn’t…

“What about the blue iris?

What about all the little stones, sitting alone in the moonlight?

What about roses, and lemons, and their shining leaves?

What about the grass?”

To read more about my Reiki practise, or to book an appointment with me, see Reiki in Leeds.

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I am a writer, dancer, T'ai Chi and Reiki practitioner in Leeds, West Yorkshire. I am dramaturg and performer at the Performance Ensemble and teach at Leeds Playhouse. Otherwise, I am either writing freelance books and articles, or digging in my garden, or learning fiendishly hard Hungarian grammar. Hungary is my favourite place, after Yorkshire!

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