January, the month for setting goals and intentions. The new year brings opportunity – thoughts, ideas, plans. I’ve always struggled with new year resolutions, of committing myself to targets that feel contrived and anchored to a sense of scarcity. Resolutions seem to involve giving up on things or pledging to do things I don’t enjoy. The period around New Year doesn’t resonate for me, and I’ve come to realise that those very early days of January are not my time to shine when it comes to planning. On Hogmanay, I went out in the snow, then wrote a crime story set at Dunnet Head.
Between work, school prelims and the bustle of everyday life, the first few weeks of the year are busy. Wintry weather means uncertainty, and plans are moveable, unhinged. I find myself caught up in admin, protesting the loss of our local school bus service. People discuss resources and ‘northern reaches’, but through the prism of potholes and lost services, it all seems as extractive as whatever came before. People are travelling 100 miles to have babies and attend hospital appointments – centralisation seems only to benefit the perceived centre. I think about posting on social media, but it all takes too much time. As we approach the month’s end, I emerge, feeling the desire to make plans, to set intentions, building. I think that perhaps this is linked to lunar cycles, the sweeping ballet of the moon. At Christmas, I received a book on Lunar Living and a diary that tracks moon phases. The diary includes astrological wisdom, fire festivals, the natural rhythms of the year. I think this suits me better, and I wonder if the new moon is the right time to make resolutions. Despite the moon-magic, I curse the full moon when she keeps me awake all night. Insomnia is a perimenopausal pest, and I’m hauled through sleep-drift days by naps and caffeine. My goals narrow. Finish a new manuscript. Enter some writing competitions. Do more writing workshops. Blog on my website. Sleep.
It all seems grey until, one night, my eldest tells me the Northern Lights are out. I am ready for bed but I pull my clothes on, push my contact lenses in. I walk round to the bay, where the sky is coloured, otherworldly. I snap photos, talk to a couple who are also taking pictures of the sky. I stay for an hour, until the lights dim and my fingers hurt. Then, just as I’m about to leave, a shooting star. The next day, I walk to my usual place, where a robin has been appearing for weeks now. I keep to my route, where I look for him, as I imagine he looks for me. On cue, he flutters out of the rocks, bares his little crimson chest, then flaps away again. I will miss him when he stops appearing, will miss the way he cheers my winter heart.
Back home, I write a short story, a romance set in a recycling centre. My friend has experience in this area so she checks over the technical bits. It still thrills, this creation of small worlds, these characters who head out to their own futures. When I daydream, I think about the couple from the recycling centre, the people in the story at Dunnet Head. I think about the robin and wonder if he might appear in a story once he stops appearing on my walks each day.
Even when the moon is dark, she’s there.
I look at my diary: a new moon, a time to set intentions. Being curious appeals to me, so I write down ‘curiosity’ as my word for 2023.
Curiosity to explore the darkness and the light, the awe of this northern place, this sing-song of learning and unlearning.
Outside, the snow has thawed and the streets are ice and rain.
It sounds like you’ve had a busy and productive start to the year!
I saw many of the photos of the Northern Lights on the Caithness FB page and I do hope one day to have a lucky timing and see the lights when I’m up your way.
Centralised working, I feel, tends to only benefit those close to the ‘centre’ and not those on the peripheral edges. I have the benefit of city amenities, but always feel that our far NE of England gets ignored as much as your far NE of Scotland – I’m hoping this new devolution as part of the levelling up may change that, but I do recognise it could be a double edged sword as it also means instead of having 7 smaller local authorities looking after us, they’re to be amalgamated into one large one – only time will, tell I guess.
We’ve had a really cold start too, but unlike you I haven’t found any motivation yet to set any goals.
Enjoy your diary – coincidentally I was just looking at that one on Amazon yesterday, purely because of the beautiful images and moon information – I decided against it though as I know it would remain unused as I tend to use digital devises more these days – keep warm and happy writing x
Thank you, Linda, and hope things work out well for your area on the devolution issue. Agree that centralisation is less beneficial away from the perceived centre. Also, so much depends on perspective – where we are, London, Edinburgh and even Inverness can feel ‘remote.’ x