By Georgia Elander
Images by Becky Guthrie
CN: Feeling low,
The way the sun without warning lights up all the buildings in sight isn’t something you see so much as something you feel. For me, at least, it’s the feeling that’s missing at midnight on New Year’s Eve when the cork pops and the fireworks go off: the sense of something beginning afresh, and the chance to be new again.
This is my new year: the beginning of days no longer lived half in the dark, the end of feeling at war with the air every moment spent outdoors. There’s something infinitely precious about remembering the feeling of sunlight on our faces, or waking up in full daylight – as if we had forgotten spring were real. It can’t just be me that in these moments feels the past months’ disappointments and bad sex and heartbreak and failures fall off me like dead skin.
I suspect I’m not the only one for whom these first tentative days of spring feel like coming out of hibernation. There is a promise in the air. Chances are, it won’t be kept – but these moments when we feel, even for a second, that everything might after all be possible are so, so important. All we can do is notice that feeling, examine it, and do our best to nourish it.
I’ve been thinking a lot in the past couple of weeks about how to do that – so here are some thoughts I’ve had on ways in which we can carry the hope of this time of year forward.
- Breathe as much spring air into our hungry lungs as we can
Whenever I’m at home and feeling under the weather, my mum always forces me to spend a few minutes outside, or at least facing an open window, to ‘get some vitamin D in you!’ After twenty-one years I’ve grudgingly come to accept that she’s right: getting access to some fresh air is immensely important for both our mental and our physical health.
Try to spend at least a few minutes outside – or if you can’t, open a window. It’s easy not to notice how stale the air is in our bedrooms, especially when we’re feeling like we want to hide away from the world, and getting a fresh breeze into the room can make a world of difference. Notice what the air looks, smells and sounds like – it’s this time of year when we can begin to detect hints of blossom on the breeze, see the pollen and dust particles catch the light, and hear bees doing their thing to keep our ecosystem alive.
- Seek out art
My first instinct on sensing the end of winter this year was to try and write about it – my second was to find people who already had, better than I could. Philip Larkin did: in The Trees he wrote ‘Last year is dead, they seem to say / Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.’
For me, the hopefulness of spring is a prompt to look for art which expresses those inexpressible moments. If you’re in London and can get to the National Gallery, spend a few minutes with Turner’s Fighting Temeraire, or Degas’ After the Bath. If you’re in the north, I recommend a visit to the Yorkshire Sculpture Park, which is a wonderful place to be surrounded by art and nature, and think about the relationship between them.
- Fall in love with fruit and veg
The coming of spring fills me with this insatiable desire to consume all the delights nature has to offer – and nothing satisfies it so well as wolfing down an entire punnet of raspberries in one sitting. I’m getting ahead of myself here – most berries won’t be in season in Britain for at least another month or so – but I’m greedily anticipating the glut of little jewel-like crops filling shelves and mouths.
Spring is, of course, prime time for British veg, and my favourite dinner this time of year is an easy and nourishing spring green stew. Throw chopped potatoes, along with any lovely green things you fancy (leeks are always good), into a pot; add enough veg stock to cover; leave to cook til the potatoes are soft, then stir in some green pesto and single cream. Make a big pot and freeze the rest for easy dinners.
- Think about what we want
In those moments when everything feels shiny and new again, what is it that suddenly feels possible? And what is it that feels like it is falling away? This is a good time to have a fresh look at the things in our lives which we’d like to change, and how we can do that.
That might involve writing a list of things we’d like to try doing, or things to aim towards – or it might mean recognising that something in your life (be it a relationship, a goal, a routine, or an activity) isn’t working, and quietly leave it behind.
We can do this very literally too – rounding up any clothes and belongings we don’t need any more and taking them to a charity shop can make our lives feel a little less cluttered.
These are just a few things I’ll be doing this spring to feed and cherish the hope I can’t help feeling at this time of year. I hope you find them useful – and I hope you find lots to love and wonder at and be overjoyed by in the weeks to come.