The End Of the Winter Season

April 19, 2024  •  Leave a Comment

As I am sitting here, trying to put some words to paper, I peek out of the window and see how Spring has finally arrived and with it new life. The promise of Spring has stayed hidden for such a long time that it almost felt like winter and with it, its rain and grey skies, had no intention of ever wanting to surrender to either the sun or the colours of new life. Floodings came and never totally went away again. Even to this day meadows are flooded and trees look like they are floating in the river. 

This winter was costly, this winter took away what was most precious to us, it took away more than just the sun, it took away its brightest ray as well. As we had progressively moved out into the open spaces, in an attempt to escape from the dreariness of the forest, we ended up walking along the flooded river banks and on the hills, which are covered in blooming heather in summer, but now they as well were brown and muddy. The open space still full of life, whilst the forest seemed so lifeless. We took walks, as always, the three of us. The two of us had merged into the three of us when Kayla arrived in our lives many years ago. Labeling her a dog would be a great disservice. She was the epitome of life. It was as if life had chosen her specifically to express itself in its most joyous way. She bounced through life, she ran over the hills as always, even at her old age and we continuously praised ourselves lucky that she was in such great shape. Little did we know that something really aggressive would just rip her out of our lives days after she still blissfully bounced over the hilltops at full speed. 

All of a sudden, completely unexpectedly, she was no longer there and with her the joy in our everyday life. The reality of what had happened in the summer of last year was also still waiting for a quiet moment to be processed and when the mind was finally ready to do so, it made my world a very bleak one. Again, like in the summer, my words just failed me. They would not be written. Photographs refused to be made. Texts would not be read. All that was left was the hope, no the faith that life would return and I searched for the evidence of that in much the same way that Kayla did for so many years.

Buds were finally appearing a month or so ago and the first snowdrops pushed away the muddy soil to send some signals that life would return, that Spring was on her way. Then Spring finally hurried to paint the trees and shrubs green again. Ferns showed their tender beginnings and then a few days later, they were already covering the forest floor. Even the beeches, notoriously late in their wish to show signs of new life, were green two weeks earlier than normal. Winter started early and abruptly and it absorbed all the light whilst showering us with as many raindrops as the tears we shed over Kayla. Winter lasted a long time, but nature was getting as impatient as we were and ended winter as abruptly as it began.

Words are still stuck somewhere deep inside of me as well as my creativity. I have given up forcing it to reappear. I know that just like ebb follows flow and flow follows ebb, my creativity will start to flow again, once ebb has had its time. Ebb is taking a long time though, which was to be expected after having been on high alert for many months, taking care of my loved one and possibly neglecting myself. There was not that much choice, there was no intentional decision to let myself down. Taking care of a loved one is never letting yourself down as this as well is taking care of yourself. A balance is needed and some people achieve that balance whilst going through the motions; I do not. I go all the way in, the balance gets lopsided for quite a while and then it swings back to the other side. Sometimes life just asks you to step up and you must follow the call. Sometimes you choose to recover later, you deal with the blow after you have done what you could in a situation of crisis. This is how the brain works and this is probably a good thing. If one would start processing everything whilst it is still ongoing, it would mean that taking action would become harder or even impossible. Our brains are wired this way and I knew very well that at some point, my brain would be pulling the emergency break once it was ready to process the events of the past months. 

Kayla:  Photograph by Ellen BorggreveKayla: Photograph by Ellen Borggreve

The beginning of winter was when I felt the emergency break activating and immediately after that we lost Kayla. I lost the ability to think straight even though I am never tempted to feel sorry for myself. I know and appreciate how incredibly fortunate we have been that my husband has recovered from the stroke the way he has. The darkness in my mind never one that dwells on what once was or what could have been. It is rather the place where past events are stored until there is time to process them and then the processing will take over and whilst the mind is working on this, it can not be creative. I acknowledge this and to expect anything else would be foolish. Our biology is such that it makes us act if we are under threat, adrenaline will keep us going and only later, when a relative level of safety is reached, the fight-or-flight modus will deactivate and with it the long queue of things to process will demand attention. 

Feeling blocked creatively is never a happy experience. It will however be much worse when resisting it. Labeling the darkness that you might be feeling after such things as health crises or the loss of loved ones, as undesirable is no more helpful than dwelling on it. This dark place is not me, it is not you either, if you are going through something similar. Knowing that the dark clouds in my mind do not define me, leads to acceptance. I accept that my creativity is not accessible whilst my brain takes time to come to terms with recent events. Resisting it does not make it go away, this time is needed to prepare for the next phase and when it arrives I will be rejoicing in it. Creative blocks are not the enemy, as long as you don’t condemn them. I welcome every sign of inspiration, which signals with little almost unnoticeable sparks of what could again be the creative fire that will light new pathways that I can not yet see. I don’t know when the time comes that creativity will soar again. I trust that it will though. I trust that it will not be unchanged. I trust that even though I do not know yet what is behind my restlessness and discomfort about my work, which has been there since that breaking point in our lives last summer, this too will become clear again if only I accept that nothing remains the same. Nothing in life does. To hold on too tightly to the life you lead or have been leading up until now means that the discomfort will be all the much greater if something inevitably happens that changes it. Endings are also beginnings. 

Whilst creativity takes a rest, whilst inspiration is taking a leave of absence, I edit the eBooks I wrote last year. The text, almost foreign to me now, needs getting reacquainted to. I read, I edit, I read again. I add words and take away others. I excavate the thoughts that I had when writing, especially those concerning the photos that are supposed to illustrate the writing. It is archeological work, digging into the words written in a past life, but reviving them in the here and now. I have gone through the second editing process. The chapters have taken their definitive shape, the next round is the final one. I have been working on this project for a long time, trying to illustrate the explained with photographs that I made for this specific reason. The entire process took me years. It is nearly finished now, probably before the beginning of yet another season. 

Life is on its return, Spring has begun and even the sun has tentatively been warming the wet meadows and humid forests and awakened the trees, bushes, flowers and birds. Bird song is filling the air in the early morning and I get up early just to listen to the blackbirds singing. Nature has woken up and so will my creativity, once its winter season has come to an end.

 

As always I would like to express my gratitude to all of you who have been supporting me, who bought one of my prints, my eBook and who have trusted me to be their teacher.

If you feel compelled to support my work, please consider buying a print or my eBook The Magic of Forest Photography. Prints are now available for many more countries in the EU. If you would like to buy a print and can't find the image in my print shop, please let me know and I'll try to make it available.

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