As the Days Lengthen

28 Dec 2022

Midwinter Spring is its own season
Sempiternal though sodden towards sundown,
Suspended in time, between pole and tropic,
When the short day is brightest, with frost and fire,
The brief sun flames the ice, on ponds and ditches,
In windless cold that is the heart’s heat…
…Between melting and freezing
The soul’s sap quivers. There is no earth smell
Or smell of living thing. This is the Spring time
But not in time’s covenant. Now the hedgerow
Is blanched for an hour with transitory blossom
Of snow, a bloom more sudden
Than that of summer, neither budding nor fading…
…Where is the summer, the unimaginable
Zero Summer?

                                                                        T S Eliot – Little Gidding

The earth has turned. In the Northern Hemisphere our days are getting infinitesimally longer. Only by a minute or so to begin with but day by day there will be more light: the sun will shine for longer.

it’s still, however, winter.

There is a country saying, As the days lengthen, so the cold strengthens. I have been looking forward to the end of 2022. It hasn’t been a good year. We have had bereavements, the stress of administering my mother-in-law’s estate, of dealing with the querulous demands of my irritable, grieving and lonely father-in-law in the care home, of clearing and selling their house 100 miles away. My husband’s job has been both stressful and precarious, both my daughters have struggled with their studies and been prone to crippling anxiety, and my almost constant ill-health has been a frustration and a concern to all.

So, I’m thankful to leave 2022 behind in the rear-view mirror.

But 2023 starts in the same place, with more of the same to come. My younger daughter has applied to universities and getting offers. They are high offers, however, and she is uncertain of making those grades. The pressure is immense and will only increase going up to the exams. My older daughter’s degree course starts to demand more of her. My husband’s job will remain stressful, and my father-in-law is, sadly, unlikely to see another Christmas. And I start the year with the same health issues.

The days lengthen, but not enough to feel the warmth. It’s Springtime, but only by the calendar. It’s still midwinter, with more cold to come.

It’s important to hang onto hope, however, and to make plans for a warmer time. There are as many positives as negatives, and those we should focus on. 

My girls are working hard, which is all they can do, and we all get on as a family – a most enormous gift. My husband still has a job, and we will cherish every day we still have with my father-in-law.

And I will continue to work with my doctors and specialists to see how to best manage my failing body.

Why did I start with Eliot? 

Because the poem goes on in hope and faith:

If you came this way,
Taking the route you would be likely to take
From the place you would be likely to come from,
If you came this way in may time, you would find the hedges
White again, in May, with voluptuary sweetness.
It would be the same at the end of the journey.

I wish you all a happy and healthy New Year.


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