By Kit Spink, Assistant Centre Manager – January 2022
It is winter and all seems dead. The slow seep of colour has left us with hills swept in elephantine greys. Each ornate, heavyweight night drags its tail far into what daylight remains. All, in this gloom, seems dead.
But from within we watch, we wait, look closer. We have weathered this before. The frosts pass, they return. Beneath it all, the soil inches into itself. A rare cloud inversion tiger-strikes overnight and rings every offered surface silver-white. The hilltops become islands in the clouds. What can survive the clasp of it winces – the glory-faded kale, the toughening leeks, the snug root veg.
We are spectators, from within. Like so much on the land, we can only witness. Laying plans for seeds, for growth to come – eyeing up, ogling window-ledges, heat mats, any potential sites of propagation. Laying over the barren scenes around the bounty we know will come. There will be life, for we will do our best to bring it.
The foot-deep ground lock of snow was brief this year. Still, enough time for the wild change it can make to the human eye – the only weather system to linger – and still enough to fleetingly record what happens in our absence. The clues it left of footprints, the silent, manless journeys of hare and deer and badger. Their covert trips to vegetable bed leaf tops made while we were away, slugging gravy, warm inside wearing paper hats.
And then it drained, fed itself into the patient soil. The ground gathering all that’s needed to nourish us once again. It waits. It heals. What was taken returns, flowing and sharing underneath.
We watch the slowed down lassitude of a compost heap in January like an unboiling kettle. Still working, still mulching scraps of last year’s activity, but even more invisibly than before. The nematodes and fungi, bacteria and amoeba, slowed to what we would call a stop but still we do, eventually, see the change. Still the magic is happening in there. Structures, Kingdoms, Empires of soil are being crafted – life for the year soon to come.
And still, above, the kites. Bolder now for lack of food, their rounds are extended, their presence to us even more known. Stoic faces in the sharp winds that have cut their way from Wyvis to shudder through bowstring bodies. Still, they hunt on. For what choice do they have? The wan ground announcing the presence of mouse and shrew and vole – a whole litany for us unseen – scant meals in sharply passing days.
As always, all around us, life is evident in so many forms. Under the cloak of dormancy all is not dead, simply slowed, braced. Holding.