A Time of Turning

While the days edge tentatively into new territory, the nights hold fast to winter’s side. The resplendent black sky splashed with stars is clear, and startlingly cold. A seam of smoke from our chimney floats over the dark like a ship at sea. For a week or so I’ve heard the wheel of time shifting forward: ice cracks like glass beneath my feet during the evenings, but the same, reshaped element trickles musically from the roof throughout the day. And then it cracks again with the fall of night. It is a time of turning.

There is the concept of a fifth season in Chinese thought, a period of still and reflective days suspended between true summer and autumn. When fire wanes into ash; a time of embers. But there is an equivalent span at this end of the year as well. The cycle of freeze and thaw resembles the ebb and flow of tides, a coming and going of the seasons, neither one in a position to assert itself clearly. It is a contested time.

 A spectral land is revealed with the morning light: frost-laced grasses and icicle trees;  hard, glassy soil. But by midday the sun is warm on my skin, and lizards emerge from their hollows to briefly bask. A few, tentative flights are tried by bees, ultimately frustrated without flowers. The days have an ache to them, caught up in indecision, a promise of paths undefined. A time of see-saw and sway. Invisible sap will soon run with warmth; until then the trees clasp ice to their sides.

27 thoughts on “A Time of Turning

  1. We’re not quite in that ‘time of turning’ yet. But it’s bound to happen soon.

    Your last image looks like what a spiteful Snow Queen would do to the trees in a last effort to leave her mark before she has to retreat.

    1. I love the idea of a Balkan Snow Queen rampaging at night! It’s certainly only the first steps, but spring is on its way after a long and still winter. Thanks for reading, Amy-Lynn; to a time of turning on your coast as well.

  2. A really beautifully descriptive post! In Southern Africa we don’t have much of a spring or autumn. But for me there are always a couple of weeks at the beginning of each, where the light takes on a different quality, and the weather hovers between seasons.

    That last photograph is beautiful.

    1. Many thanks, Lisa! I’m really glad you mentioned that quality of light, as I’ve always wondered what other shifts take place where seasons aren’t as distinct. The light that alters here is particularly wondrous in these early spring evenings, when it lengthens and glows, signalling a new angle and the drawing out of the day. Delighted you liked the photograph, and thanks for reading!

  3. The snow still holds our landscape locked tightly in its grip. Last night the ice mists moved across the gentle mountain rises and froze us once again in place. Today a cold rain is driving the banks back a little further.
    We are several weeks yet from what anyone would call real spring.
    Your pictures make me long for the warmth.

    1. Thanks for the wonderfully thoughtful and evocative comment, JE. I could clearly picture the ice mists and banks of snow seeping away in the rain. Spring can’t be far from your shores, and I imagine you’ll be grateful to see its face. To a new season! Many thanks for reading…

  4. Beautifully written, evocative post, Julian. I entirely subscribe to the notion of the between-seasons. We’re on the cusp here in Blighty just now; yesterday a perfect spring day, today a cutting wind from the north east. I’m in Brighton, returning to Glasgow tomorrow; everyone delights in telling me of the snow falling anew on Caledonia’s uplands!

    1. Thanks very much, Pete. I can picture you on the South Downs in that changeable weather, walking your way through it! Have you been in Brighton long? And to return to snow must be an exciting prospect for you – though I don’t suppose it will last long it being March. Enjoy your journey north, my friend.

  5. I really love the idea of this time of year being a season of its own. So much possibility and hope – and relief, to have made it through the winter. Your photographs of the snow on the bushes are just beautiful.

    1. Indeed, a time apart, Cait – and you’ll no doubt be very pleased to see some flowers and creatures returning to photograph! So pleased you liked the images, and thanks for the kind words.

  6. It would seem all of nature is a little impatient this time of year, even the disappointed bees looking for flowers… You describe your place on our earth so well I feel as if I’m there, seeing and hearing it for myself! We’ve had so much more snow than usual this year and a few of our rivers have already gone over flood stage. I like the surging energy evident in the picture of the snow-melt cascading down the little brook. (Clicked on it to see it enlarged…)

    1. It’s amazing to think of snow sifting softly down, and then how energetic it is once melted and racing from the hills and mountains. Meltwater is wonderful to watch. I’ve been reading a bit about your hard winter, and imagine you’ll be pleased to see the first signs of spring. I think I might even dig a bit of the garden this afternoon before it gets cold again! Thanks for kind words and for taking the time to read, Barbara.

  7. Wonderful post, as usual, Julian. I hadn’t thought about the idea of this time of year being a ‘contested time’ as the forces of warmth and cold duel it out, but it is so true. It reminds me of the spiral that our Social Work professor put across the blackboard one day at the beginning of class. He asked us what the spiral represented and when we didn’t know, he told us that this is how change invariably takes place, two steps forward and one step back. I’ve seen this repeatedly in helping to facilitate change with individuals, families, and communities, and now with your example see how this is also so clearly evident in nature. Nature and human nature are not so different from each other.

    1. Fascinating idea you’ve put forward, Paul. I’m deeply interested in your use of the ‘spiral’ while discussing change within “individuals, families, and communities,” and it reminds me of an idea developed by Nabokov in his autobiography, ‘Speak, Memory.’ Much of the book is concerned with the nature, or essence of a life: Can it be defined? What links the beginning of our lives with their end? What themes might be found throughout? Nabokov ultimately finds the form of the spiral – “a spiritualized circle” – an apt metaphor for life; rather than rolling forward (or even backwards) we’re forever turning back while also moving ahead, partaking in the “essential spirality of all things in their relation to time.” Development, he believed, was mirrored by the spiral: “twirl follows twirl, and every synthesis is the thesis of the next series.” And I couldn’t agree more with your final sentence. Many thanks for the kind words, and your idea that I’ve had the pleasure of thinking about this afternoon.

  8. I didn’t realize that even in Greece there is a battle between the seasons.

    Your photos are quite wonderful.

    So glad I stumbled across your Blog.


    Eastern Passage, Nova Scotia, Canada

    1. There is in this part of Greece! We live right at the northern tip at a high altitude on the border with Albania and the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, hence the winters of snow and hot, but temperate, summers! It has much more in common with the rest of the Balkans in many ways.

      I’m also glad that you stumbled upon the blog! Thanks for the kind words, Sybil, and I’m looking forward to having a closer look at your own page when I get a chance. I had a brief look this morning and am excited to see what you have to share about a part of the world that’s long held my interest. I was in Nova Scotia a few years back visiting friends and would like to get back there again soon. Until then, best wishes and thanks for reading.


      1. Julian, If you ever make it to Nova Scotia let me know. Would be happy to show you around the Eastern Shore area.

        Isn’t it funny how we think where others live is exotic …

        I moved here from Ontario so still look at everything with “new” eyes.

        Best wishes,

        Eastern Passage, NS

  9. I love the idea of a 5th season, and a 6th. There does seem to be a teasing pause between winter and spring. Here they seem to shove one another around a lot, so I don’t know if you could call it reflective. How lovely to see spring’s promises in your images: rushing water and hoar frost, and sweet snow covered blossoms. Such a sensory-rich piece, Julian. Wonderful to read it (again – I had no words the first time).

    1. Thanks, as always, for the extremely kind compliments, Cindy! The hoar frost was marvellous in the bright sunlight, and the light itself is slowly deepening. We began a walk with friends through woods yesterday with excited talk of spring and warm sunshine as we stripped off our winter layers barely minutes after beginning. An hour later the wind swept across the lakes and it turned bitterly cold, and we quickly dug the layers out of our bags again. One friend just turned and said: “No. It’s certainly not spring yet.” But for a few brief moments it sure felt like it!

  10. Very nice post. We just had two beautiful mild sunny days here and now it is snowing, there is a delightfully calm turbulence to this edge of spring where two seasons tug and pull from each other.

    1. I love the idea of “a delightfully calm turbulence” – seemingly a contradiction, but very apt for this mercurial time of the year. Thanks for stopping by, and taking the time to read and comment! Much appreciated. Enjoy your many weathers!

  11. Julian, as I’m sure you know, Flandrum Hill is also located in this neck of the woods.

    Amy-Lynn of Flandrum Hill welcomed me and showed me around when I moved here from Ontario.

    There are some really nice Bloggers out there and I have met my fair share.

    I look forward to the opportunity to “pay it forward”.

    Eastern Passage, NS

  12. hey!
    ANYWAY……..KEEP IT UP!!!!!!!!!

    1. Thank you, Thasni! When I was young I was very interested in nature, and then for some years I lived in cities and stopped thinking about it. But slowly, over time, that old fascination that I’d had came back unexpectedly and beautifully. And I’m very grateful that it has!

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