My January has been a deliberate time away from regular work, away from the normal workdays and into a time of rest, reflection and renewal. For a few months, I was telling people that “I’m having January off”, and not really feeling it myself. Now it’s here, and more than half way through, and it’s my last evening at a cornish cottage alone. This place has a harbour, and there is an icy storm raging. The safety of the harbour has been needed for me to rest and re-find a place of inner quiet, ready for the year ahead. As anyone who knows me would confirm, I have a propensity to hold onto far too many work strands, love creating new projects and generally try hard to make life OK for others. No wonder I was burnt out, exhausted.
Right now, I’m happy to be safe inside, warm and with the prospect of a final spacious evening alone. Over days I have walked the coast path, climbed up step after step and slid down muddy tracks; I’ve explored the woods, crossing streams and noticing primroses getting themselves ready to produce flowers. Tomorrow, it’s into the cold winds of the winter and towards my home. The storm will propel me outwards, into the wilds again. Not just the outer wild; the inner wild landscape that now travels with me. These are the dreaming lands of the winter, a place of renewal and a breathing space. For many years I paid lip-service to the notion of winter dreaming, taking a few days off here and there. This year, I carved out a whole month, taking time away from work, some time away from loved ones, away from home, in mountains, on the moor and here by the sea.
So I’m grateful for the storm tonight, and the winds forecast again tomorrow. It has been so good to pay heed to the weather; and to the cliffs, valleys and streams of this place. It has felt like a gift to be in a landscape that demands my full attention; walking the northern coast path in winter is steep, slippy, windblown and empty of people. It evoked within me what is now called mindfulness. I know that as being fully present to the landscape around me, to each step I take, the rocks I pass by, the calling of the gulls, kittiwakes, rooks and ravens overhead.
Now, in my room, I stop and take a breath. Listening, as the rain and sleet again pound the roof and windows. Here in my safe harbour, where I thought that I would dream of new projects for my work. Instead, in this breath between things, this place of renewal, I’ve come to realise that I want to hear the dreams of this land: the ancient cliffs, river valleys and wild seas of this beautiful lush, wet island that is my home. I give thanks and honour the storm that has sent me inward to this realisation, and settle deeper into the warmth of this haven. I feel protected in this valley by the cliffs around me, and grow into a remembered feeling that it is not us who dream this land, but it is the land that dreams us.