I walk into the new year. Slowly, slightly hesitatingly. Not like the foxes of the early hours, chasing one another full pelt down the hill after overturning a dustbin. Not like the invisible ice-fingered persistence of the frost forming on the roofs of cars (the cars, the stars, me – no doubt other awake ones – witnessing the momentary excitement of the chase). Not like the brook flowing besides me now. Gurgling, swirling between the outcrops of limestone, doing that flowy thing I envy water for, even though the flow is happening in this body, here, now.
I edge my way into the new year, this morning’s step-by-step walk helping – cajoling. Although a Bristol-city dweller, I can walk for the first three quarters of a mile on grass and track to our local wood. So, I do, meeting the wood’s abundance; brook, dogs, robin, squirrels – more hi-speed chasing – tits, magpies, crow, and trees of many families. Often wagtails, but not today – not yet – with their ducking and darting.
Do I even welcome this new year? After all, I fell asleep on it, tucked up early with a good book. Doesn’t imbolc, or even Halloween, have more of a feel of new year in these bones? Maybe, maybe not, like it or not, here it is. ‘Ready or not, here I come!’ it whispers in my ear, cackles and dashes off, before its time is up for another year.
I’m helped in the edging by the book of New Year’s Eve: ‘Rewild Yourself’, a lovely Christmas present. What a gem of a reminder of how to remember the wild in me meeting the wild in other beings (and what a lovely front cover…) I’ve dipped in and out, butterflies and buddleia here, a reminder about Basho there, pretty sure a book about re-wilding can be read out of order, not from front to back, not from beginning to end.
Not from beginning to end – that’s how I want to live 2019. Not in the way of 9-5, 24/7 life, although much of it’ll look like that. Countering consensus reality with being time rather than spending time; ‘uji’ in the word of Dogen, the great 13th century Zen master. Yesterday at the allotment was a good start, spreading manure around with both bare hands, greeting the buddleias and imagining their summer abundance with my muddy paws. Becoming manure, preparing for death in living.
I want to carry on edging into 2019, not jumping in until I’m warmed by the late spring sun. For now, I’ll wade in the brook, feeling the water’s chill through my boots. I mainly want to remember re-wilding, literally re-membering: these legs, these hands, this heart. Despite being a wild therapist, talking and writing about ecopsychology, working outdoors with groups and clients, loving the wild, tame can be so alluringly comfortable, ‘safe’, and so much more socially acceptable.
Edging along the road to here, I noticed the miracles everywhere. The squirrel on beady-eyed watch – I had to ask for permission to cross his path. The gleaming red of a tiny dogwood bush planted in a Terribly Neat suburban garden. Verve colliding with ornamental grey pebbles. The wiggly beauty of an old cottage and garden I had never seen before, surrounded by 1930s houses with their arches, pointy gables and otherwise straight, man-made lines. A shock of pink roses shielded in an unlikely bamboo grove in another suburban garden. The magpie feather, freshly fallen, at my feet, inviting my gaze down, to soften, to slow my gait. To listen.
Ordinary miracles everywhere, big dreams can wait. Let the re-wilding shape the year – muddy paws, chilly toes. Happy new year to all of you also edging your way into 2019…
PS as I leave the wood, a flesh of yellow. Could it possibly be a yellow wagtail in December? Yes, I suppose, it could be, I think, passing a forsythia and a fuchsia in bloom. Nature confused by climate change, as am I.