We were cycling late last Saturday night and I’d left the house ill-prepared. My hands stung sharply with the cold; the wind whipping my knuckles as we trundled up the hill. ‘Why the fuck didn’t I bring my gloves?’ I shouted, shaking my raw hands to bring some life back to them, as the rest of our group whizzed past me.
‘Fool’s Spring tricked you, mate. It’s still winter; in case you didn’t realise.’
And they were right. I’d been lulled into the false sense of security by a short chain of warmer, brighter days; letting myself feel the promise of the sweet relief of warmer months ahead. No gloves needed. I find myself wanting Spring so badly this year; yearning for the light in a way that is quite unlike me, slow paced snail-being that I usually am. And, of course, as soon as I had allowed myself this feeling then the weather has now promptly returned to the biting cold of a few weeks before.
Fool’s Spring. I know this phenomenon intimately when it comes to my inner seasons. It’s the short lived promise of energy reemerging that happens just after I bleed. I get this tiny, green glimmer of something, like the tenderest seedling just breaking the surface of the soil and I want to follow that impulse to its obvious conclusion; springing back into action again after the slower pace of the days before. But if I follow this instinct too enthusiastically, I’m often left disappointed when I realise that it’s too soon to start being fully springy again. The energy drops. My seedling stretches towards the sky before collapsing into a leggy slump.
It takes a certain kind of inner trust to not be totally wooed by Fool’s Spring; to let myself be slower, more cautious, as I turn the corner out of my inner winter; to let the seedling-self gather steady force before shooting for the stars. However, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this giddy energy. In fact, there can be something deliciously renegade about pursuing this state and then letting it ebb away – or crash – of its own accord. I’m a human, not entirely seedling after all. Let me blunder and stumble if I want to. Let me be a fool sometimes; throwing caution to the wind whilst also forgetting my gloves and my hat and my coat.
Where the tension lies is when we expect Fool’s Spring to keep going, to push past the tender inklings into full blown action before we are really ready to. I have made that mistake far too many times before and know all too well the frustration of crashing nary a week later when I’d hope to truly be in full bloom.
I think of how this same dynamic shows up in other ways in our lives. How when we are unwell, we will often grasp onto the first signs of improvement as proof that we are ‘better’; rushing back to work before we’re really ready to. We actually encourage this. I’ve seen people applauded for getting back to it when it’s evident to everyone that they needed a few more days in bed. I’ve seen it when someone is chronically ill and folks herald small signs of renewed health as evidence that this person is definitely heading back towards full wellness, instead of the strong possibility that these hope-filled signals will be short-lived pleasant blips on a non-linear, crooked path of wellness and unwellness tangled together. I’ve witnessed how delighted people have seemed when I’ve emerged from grief or depression momentarily, only to disappoint them when I plunge back into the depths before they’ve even had proper a chance to see me on my ‘good days’. I remember all the false beginnings of ideas and projects; started with enthusiasm and then thwarted by my own makings or steered off course by events beyond my control.
We love progress. Measurable, tangible progress. Growth for better or worse. It is is the clarion call of our overculture. Keep going, keep growing. But can we learn that sometimes a false start or a foolish leap might actually have its own merits and qualities we could marvel at? Can we accept when things do not take the common way, but diverge into new, perhaps lesser valued, multitudinous paths?
Our expectations for the cycle of the seasons is that they flow neatly from one to the other in a predictable stream; spring becomes summer becomes autumn becomes winter. An A to a B to a C, then a familiar D. When, what we see increasingly more of now in the Northern hemisphere are micro seasons, oftentimes swinging one way and then the other. Far less predictable and often quite strange. The length of each day’s light may guide us consistently through the seasons, but the weather can vary wildly. In these times of climate emergency things are not as straight-forward as we long for them to be. (I know I feel the same way so often about my own cycle. I ponder deeply and regularly how these two phenomenon may be intrinsically linked – a story for another day).
Even when my menstrual cycle is following its expected rhythm, another aspect of my cyclical nature will fall out of whack. I might be in an inner summer phase, but my sleep has been disturbed through tending to a poorly child or that all too familiar anxious head-churn, so symptomatic of modern life, has kept me up all week. Instead of continuing to expect my cycle to be a consistent rhythm of growth then decay and back round again, I think of myself and those around me as each having a polyphony of strange cycles all thrumming within us and around us simultaneously. Cycles within cycles within cycles. Some sync and resonate neatly; some clash crudely with one another. Some ebb and flow with great ease. Others stutter and stop, stagnate and then reanimate again. Perhaps we each are leafmould, nasturtium sprout, raspberry and wilted rose all at once?
What if we are not just simple one-note, uni-cycles, but complex constellations of spinning galaxies, all entangled with one another?
And as this world keeps erupting with challenge upon challenge, how can we keep making room for the unexpected, the unpredictable, the Fool’s Springs in our cycles and lives?