After weeks of my kerosene stove registering ‘Lo’ first thing, it was a pleasant surprise to discover that there wasn’t the same need to turn it on the moment my feet hit the floor this morning.
The chill from beneath the thin wooden floorboards wasn’t quite as pervasive as usual, but it still came as a surprise to see that the thermometer in the living room was registering a full 8 degrees!
Remember, this was before I’d even turned on a stove.
To set the scene a little better, I live in an old farmhouse in the depths of the Japanese countryside where, despite the relative harshness of the winters, the older houses were built solely to help their inhabitants survive the intensity of the hot and humid summers and are ill-equipped for the cold winter months. To be able to reach a hand out of bed and leave it there, walk the floors in my bed sock clad feet without immediately reaching for the stove in February is nothing short of a small miracle – one I intended to enjoy to the full.
Once breakfast had been eaten I donned my sunhat and sunglasses and ventured outside with my beloved four-legged friend.There was a smell of freshness in the air and I realised I really didn’t need my jacket.
Pimo, my dog, has aged a lot in the last year and we no longer go very far on our walks, which often end in me carrying her back to the house. Imagine my delight when having only gone a couple of hundred metres, I was greeted with the sight of three or four small bees drifting around by the germander speedwell that was slightly straggly after several weeks of being submerged under snow, but was now opening its delicate blue flowers to receive the warmth of the sun.
Snow was still lying in all the places the sun doesn’t normally reach but the river was glittering merrily, bathed in light; the breeze was gentle and warm; even the blueness of the sky had a softness about it and, to my astonishment, I had the good fortune to come across a ladybird no doubt tricked into venturing out of hibernation by the unseasonable warmth of the day.
Beautiful harbingers of spring which occasioned a quickening of my heart and a lightness in my step.
The rush of hope and gratitude I felt was made all the more intense by their contrast to the dazzling snowscapes, the ice-choked stream that leads down to the river, the monochrome mountains made of bare branches peeking through snow, and the chill in the air that penetrates my fleece-lined gloves that are all symbolic of the winter months here.
As anyone who has ever lived in a place with distinctive seasons knows, the beauty of each is enhanced by the one before.
And winter to spring, with its hint of new beginnings in the air and the outburst of nature in an explosion of life and colour, is my own personal favourite here in Nagano and breathes a special kind of delight into my heart.
I got home and opened my Facebook page to find a quote about life being a circle of happiness and sadness, hard times and good times and it seemed to fit so perfectly with the rhythm of the seasons that had just moments before been flooding my senses.
After the cold winter there comes the spring.
And, in the cyclic nature of the Universe, day is followed by night and then by day again; and, difficult as it can be to believe at the time, our sadness and hard times are not permanent fixtures but gradually make way for happiness and good times again.
I have seen the indisputability of this in my own life. From the depths of grief so great I feared I might never surface, I rode the wave of change and renewal and now know happiness again.
And just as some of winter is carried over into spring in torrenting rivers full of snowmelt, our sadness and hard times leave their lasting impression.
But the cycle of life is always seeking balance, and gradually restores happiness where once it could not be found.
I know it is not only myself who has rode the troughs the last few years. Our planet and many of us on it are going through giant upheavals in our lives, most preceded by a period of deep grief and pain.
My own experience of riding the troughs taught me that the only thing I could do was trust in this cyclic nature of life. Trust that better things are on their way and that I was being led to a better place.
To any of you who may currently be riding the troughs not the peaks, I implore you to trust in this same cyclic nature of life and your ability to heal, and keep an eye out for the signs that better things are on their way.
Like the improbable bees and the ladybird the harbingers of spring, what harbingers of possibility can you find showing up in your life today?