With the turning back of the clocks this week, my mind has turned to the concept of overwintering.
Flocks of pink-footed geese and droves of diving ducks are arriving from colder places to the West. Gardeners are moving their agapanthus and cordyline plants into greenhouses. The beachside funfairs are pulling up their end-of-season tarpaulins and the local golf clubs are dusting off their tee box mats. It is a season of change and preparation and I want to be a part of it.
We forget I think, in the creative community that the world is seasonal. Or at least we subvert the natural rhythms of the seasons into a justification for striving to keep a constant pace. Winter festivals, be it Chanukah, Diwali or Christmas, become yet another obligation to produce for markets or to work to tempt gift buyers into purchases. This year we are perhaps worrying about the costs of keeping the heat and light on in the studio as we plan to carry on making into the dark hours. We anticipate constantly bright screens as we tweet, post and blog our way to Spring.
Meanwhile, as we press against the darkness, animals are embracing it. Under piles of rustling russet leaves, hedgehogs sleep. Bats roost, dormice nest and over the Pond grizzly bears take their aggression and curl into soft balls. Badgers and red squirrels enter states of torpor, shorter, shallower periods of inactivity and slower breathing.
It’s time to reclaim overwintering for artists and writers too. In my regular check-in with my accountability partner Christine Hager- Braun today, we talked today about two ways to approach creative overwintering and found that we both needed a slightly different approach for the next few months.
Christine favoured the term hibernation. She needs a period of seclusion and focus. To have time to work on her project out of the public eye, focusing not on the market but on exploration for herself.
She wanted to rest and simplify. She decided to reclaim the term hibernation to mean not a total absence of work but the state of doing her work with much less visibility. As she spoke about it I got a lovely sense of warmth and stillness. She will create a cosy season of self-care and renewal.s
I would certainly not reject a good dose of that snuggling down in the cold and wet of a UK winter. I sense log fires and good books, hot chocolate and warm socks. Maybe a rereading of Wintering by Katherine May. Yet in the end, I decided that this season the concept of winter migration suited me better. I also want to go away, to be out of view. To not have to repeat expected routines and to be mostly out of the public eye. Maybe next year hibernation will do the trick but this year I want to slip away and be in secret transition for a while.
I don’t need to go far from my creative home (or perhaps I am returning to it) but I need to readjust. To have some new creative vistas and to join a flock of new people who know the route I need to take. I want to return in the Spring recognisable but changed and renewed. I want to get some new perspectives, to warm up skills that are in danger of becoming frozen, to gain perspective on the future away from the familiar.
It feels a little illicit to be contemplating either hibernation or migration. Our society is so permanently switched on these days that to retreat for long periods feels deliciously rebellious. Like sagging off school to go to the Christmas ice rink! When we cooked up our plan I felt a passing frisson of fear: what if I go away and when I come back I have lost my place? Mostly though it feels for both of us like a great big Santa sack full of relief. We both let out huge signs like children delighting in their frosted breath as they walk mittened through snowy playgrounds.
And so, I shall return in March, my quarter of overwintering complete. I will be resting and reading a vast pile of books that have accumulated all by themselves on my console table. I will be doing some private readjustment, reimagining and reflection and I shall be experimenting in the studio but with a great deal of languidity. I hope to live a little more by the rhythm of the days and to let the reduction in daylight be mirrored by a reciprocal drop in productivity. At the same time, I will be privately repositioning my studio practice. Then I shall return, renewed and restored ready to reveal myself.
I shall send you some postcards along the way (sign up for my newsletter if you’d like some occasional reports on the experience). I intend to bring you back gifts from the journey in the form of some long-form writing, and some accumulated wisdom. I hope that all the metaphorical flapping of my way to Marrakech will result in me dropping weight and reappearing in a sleeker form, my creative career more defined. We shall see.
So wish me Bon Voyage my friends and I shall say, Au Revoir.