Befriending January

January takes some getting to know, especially if you live in Northern Europe. The eye can soon tire of bristly trees against mucky blankets of cloud. Some weeks, it can feel like one is living at the bottom of a mirky lake. So I decided to observe January and its nature more closely, to befriend it. In this UK lockdown we are allowed to take exercise outside once a day. Here is what I observed as I walked…

Firstly, as the days get longer, the light is drawing out shoots from the trees and the birds have ramped up a dusk chorus in the last few days. I have seen flower buds in parks. Spring, I now realise, lays its foundations right now. 

Secondly, though nature is scaled back in January, the month does have its own particular natural treats. When the clouds budge the sky is a particular blue – bright and thin, like a distant day. The sunlight lands in golden patches on hilltops. Shadows are long and rivers misty. In this short portion of the year we see the skeletal structures of the trees, which stand like extraordinary sculptures. And the thick cloud and dark days can make home feel like a cosy, winter cave. 

Which leads me to my third point… On the surface, very little happens in nature this month. Changes are subtle. Noticing these changes adds some intrigue, but essentially January remains a plain month. A quiet month. It doesn’t have to be exciting. Just like we don’t always have to be exciting. May, July or October do a perfectly good job of providing a nature show. But this is a quiet time and that’s OK. There is no rush. 

Personally, I have come to treasure this month as a time to hunker down and sort out one’s work, home, or ideas. People worry so much about missing out on Spring. But spring will come in its own time. January has always been a hushed time for nature. For animals. And I am relishing this private, quiet time too. 

My sketch of an oak.

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