I’m sitting in the family living room, a glass of prosecco by my side, laptop on my knees, and my dad muttering grumpily behind as he clatters around the kitchen. The fire is lit. The sofa is cosy. I’m tired, but in that satisfied ‘I’ve-filled-my-hours-to-their-absolute-best’ kind of way.
This morning I was standing at the top of a huge, blustery hill with views stretching thirty miles away beneath me: fields, valleys, green dips and curves, patches of rain. Intermittent flashes of sun between the grey, too. The second of three locations used for blog shoots, much of the day has been taken up in dashing between the car and the chilly outside world. Three spectacular sweeps of landscape. Three rounds of my fingers reaching freezing point. Three rounds of “well you didn’t bollocking say to stand there, did you?” (My dad and I swear as much as we collaborate when it comes to photos). Only one moment of climbing a slippery, muddy five-bar gate in 70s heeled go-go boots though – in pursuit of the pictures above.
Plenty of laughter and bickering all the way through, as well as the sheer elation of tumbling back into the warmth after we were done. A 31st of December full of mulled wine, muddied stilettos, raging winds, and a small herd of wild ponies trotting past us.
I feel contented right now, full with the riches of today. Lucky, too. Of course this is meant to be a time for taking stock of the last twelve months. As I wrote exactly a year ago, “It seems natural. A kind of drawing of breath, giving space to process what's been happening. We like to slice our experiences up into these increments, marking the passing of each year with simultaneous retrospection and promises to be better, do more, improve this, and cut back on that in the months ahead.”
Well, today I’ve been drawing breaths, but mainly through relishing what was around me. Relishing the absolute privilege of love, safety and the ability to be creative – to dress up in ridiculous clothes, hang out with my family, and call it a day well spent. That shouldn’t be a privilege. But at the moment, it feels like one.
Taking stock of a previous year is interesting, because two things clash. What do I process, personally, from 2015? And what do I process globally? With the former, I can readily acknowledge that this last year has been among the most intense of the last twenty: for better, and for worse. A year full of things I could hardly envisage on the cusp of last January. Marvelous new people (SO many of them) and unprecedented opportunity aplenty, with a good dose of golden memories on the side. Lots of not-so-great bits too. It’s important to acknowledge the light and the heavy. Both are equally valid. Both have threaded this merry-go-round of twelve months together.
With the latter though, I’m aware of how precarious things have been worldwide. They always have been precarious. Probably always will be, too. But both home and abroad, the measure of bad news has been relentlessly appalling. We all know it. We know that it feels overwhelming and frightening. All we can do is to respond on an individual level – do what we can, where we can. Individual actions are, we hope, cumulative. Added together, they expand and inflate.
‘Hope’, by the way, is a word I’ve thought about a lot recently. It’s a good word. A strong word. A settling word. A word at the heart of a beautiful project put together by my friend Flo Morrissey (I contributed a poem called ‘Starlings’, which you can hear here). I obviously have my personal hopes for 2016: a motley collection of aspirations, excitements, causes for celebration, and the odd dash of nervousness about all that I’m keen to work for and see happen. Things are on the horizon - the publication of my book, for one. The finishing of my degree, for another.
There are also lots of larger hopes extending outward; hopes where the control lies in the hands of others. For those we can only lobby, raise our voices, donate where possible (whether time or other resources), and refuse to sit back and be passive. ‘Hope’ is a proactive word. It requires doing. And it’s a word I’ll be raising several glasses to this New Year’s Eve.
The rain has been unremitting these last few weeks. Today we were lucky enough to catch several small windows of brightness - something that's sadly scant right now. Sending plenty of thoughts to those affected by the extensive flooding, especially in parts of the North of England and in Scotland. Totally devastating and, as George Monbiot pointed out, partly a result of years of short-sighted, government-directed land-management as well as the protection and drainage of wealthy landowners' upland grouse and game shooting playgrounds at the expense of the towns, villages and cities down stream...
During this dash along a country lane, I chose the wonderfully impractical combination of a 60s handmade vintage dress (a Christmas present from my fabulous mum) and my very trusty, much battered and muddied vintage boots. The post's title is a line from an Emily Dickinson poem, which felt especially appropriate thematically - and rather timely too - as I read the gorgeous and moving 'Grief is the Thing with Feathers' by Max Porter, in a single sitting this morning.