“Midwinter spring is its own season.” So begins T.S. Eliot’s “Little Gidding,” one of my favorite poems.
But what, exactly, is “midwinter spring”? Is it analogous to autumn’s Indian summer? Not having lived in England, I really don’t know. I’m sure I could find a commentary on the poem that would explain it, but that’s never been my style when reading TSE. I prefer to let the phrases wash over me, to explicate their mysteries slowly, in my own way and in my own time, to use his poetry to interpret my own life rather than searching for the “correct” meaning.
What I do know is that the weather feels indeed like spring in the midst of winter. Yesterday was a balmy 50-plus degrees. Snowdrops and crocus are peeping up through the grass. This is not typical of eastern Pennsylvania in February.
Midwinter, as in the official date, occurs on February 2nd. What we here in the States call “Groundhog Day.” I prefer the older designations: Midwinter or the beautiful and evocative “Candlemas,” which means “feast of candles.” Which would you rather celebrate?
Another fascinating set of midwinter spring words is the English “Lent,” the penitential season of the church year that precedes Easter, and the German “Lenz,” which means “spring.” I read somewhere that both have their root in the same word from which “length” comes and that both refer to the lengthening days of this season. I thought that was lovely. Lent has such somber overtones; I like the idea of its being connected to spring; it makes the season feel more like a spiritual spring-cleaning than a period of deprivation and gloom.
My own life at the moment feels a bit like midwinter spring, too. Slowly, slowly, winter is giving way to the hope of spring. Things at the day job are in a ferment of transition, much of it stressful. But after an initial period of discomfort, affairs in my own little sphere have settled down and the next few months promise a rare equilibrium–until the next stage of disruption takes place. Though more difficult changes lies ahead, I feel oddly at peace, experiencing my own little spring in the midst of a winter of discontent and change.
Much of this has to do with my current WIP (writer-speak for Work in Progress, i.e., what I’m currently writing). It’s different from anything else I have written: suspense with an element of fantasy (think Hitchcock with bits of The Twilight Zone occasionally thrown in–at least that’s the intent). And it’s, so far (fingers crossed and knocking on wood!), going well. I think that’s one of the reasons writers keep writing; it fuels something deep down inside.
What is your midwinter like this year? Do you have plans for spring-cleaning to celebrate the lengthening days that will bring Lent and Lenz?