January is slow. There's no doubt about that. No wonder there are so many jokes about the 97 days between December payday and January payday! It does, indeed seem to be a very slow month when nothing happens and nothing has any plan of happening. Maybe this year more so than before. The new Covid variant is wreaking havoc with our society - flooding our hospitals, crippling our economy and, perhaps more than anything else, eroding our hope.
BUT - and this is the thing - BUT we have a choice. It takes some effort, but we always have a choice. As I write, the snow if falling outside in big feathered flakes. It probably won't stick because the ground is too wet, but there is a magic in it, even if it doesn't stay.
And this is the thing - there is magic all around us, sometimes we just have to dig a bit deeper to find it. I appreciate that this comes from a privileged perspective - I am not starving or cold - but I think it is part of our human survival instinct to look for the good and the magical. And as a writer, this is part of existence. Despite the many frustrations (not getting that publishing deal, not getting any response, having to put writing aside because the day job pays the bills...) images and words keep pushing and pushing, desperate to get written down.
Richard Bach, author of Jonathan Livingstone Seagull and the absolutely spectacular Illusions once wrote something along the lines of never setting out to write a novel - the novel found him and worried him and worried him until he wrote it down.
This, I think, is what it is to be a writer. The stories and the images keep tugging at your mind until you write them down (and enter that whole minefield of making them communicate to an invisible audience, all the complexity of what you feel). Its about seizing the magic and making it real.
Gerard Manley Hopkins was one of my early favourite wordsmiths. There is such magic in his words. The images and the sounds roll over and over to weave a web that is as raw and new as any sunrise in 2021. This is The Windhover written in 1877:
I caught this morning morning's minion, king- dom of daylight's dauphin, dapple-dawn-drawn Falcon, in his riding Of the rolling level underneath him steady air, and striding High there, how he rung upon the rein of a wimpling wing In his ecstasy! then off, off forth on swing, As a skate's heel sweeps smooth on a bow-bend: the hurl and gliding Rebuffed the big wind. My heart in hiding Stirred for a bird, – the achieve of, the mastery of the thing! Brute beauty and valour and act, oh, air, pride, plume, here Buckle! AND the fire that breaks from thee then, a billion Times told lovelier, more dangerous, O my chevalier! No wonder of it: shéer plód makes plough down sillion Shine, and blue-bleak embers, ah my dear, Fall, gall themselves, and gash gold-vermilion. What magic in the words!
Hopkins wasn't a popular poet in his day and he struggled with the conflict between the perceived pride of his poetry and the ideals of being a good priest (the Windhover is dedicated `To Christ our Lord'). When he died, he was younger than I am now. Yet the sunrise of the poem stretches out across the years and touches us, profoundly, with its magic.
There is magic out there - we just need to look for it.
And if you need a little push to get you there, maybe check out my friend Tina's Wafflefree short story podcast. For as long as I have known her (and its been a while now!) Tina has believed in possibilities. There is a certain magic in that.
I wish you magic today and the magic of possibilities on every day to come.
P.S. : the snow is sticking in little pockets and the roofs look like they have been covered in cotton wool. Magic!