A milk white moon rose over the ridge between Bolehill and Gorsey Bank, the blackbirds in full throat, fields gold with buttercups, and verges deep in Sweet Cecily and Pink Campion. Last week the swifts arrived – on 6th May as predicted. I was anticipating seeing those familiar shapes high in the sky, but was met by a stream of them, as I crossed the orchard, swooping and circling over my head in a joyful and noisy aerial display. Waking one morning at dawn a few days ago, I heard the first cuckoo, and tonight the larks were singing in a clear blue sky above Middleton Moor.
It feels new – all of it, even though I’ve lived through decades of springs. This year spring seemed to creep up and take us by surprise. Winter scarcely touched us, but for the dark long nights. It was mild, often sunny weather. As the weeks went by, it didn’t seem possible that we’d got away without the blizzards, deep drifts and banks of snow of winter 2012-13. But Easter came and went, and it became apparent, amazingly, that winter was over.
Teaching Pilates this morning, I was talking about flow – one of the six fundamental principles of Joseph Pilates’ teaching. It’s always good to come back to these principles, to ground the exercises, to be mindful of concentration, control, centring, breath, precision, flow. They can be usefully applied to any activity – but breath and flow seem particularly to underpin everything. Movement rides the breath – breath, a circular flow – patterns of rhythm, shape, speed and dynamic shift into new patterns – continual movement.
Between classes, I write – I need to complete a full draft of my novel by the beginning of September, to leave time for a final draft and copy editing, and there’s an awful lot of work still to do. For too long writing has been a struggle, I’ve had a sense of pushing against the constraints of my own mediocrity, a restriction of flow, without much release or sense of any achievement (not in myself anyway). Except for the occasional time, like working on Meetings with Ivor, it’s been relentlessly challenging.
But just a month ago I reached a new phase with writing, indeed with many things I’ve struggled with for a long time – everything seemed to fall into place and become easier. I don’t know how this has happened, but it’s a good feeling I don’t take for granted. Since then the internal voices have become clearer, there’s a sense of purpose to each chapter. I don’t know if I’m writing any better, but I look forward to the hours I can spend on it.
I’d never been clear about the end of my novel, but as I walked last night it came to me at last, playing out in my imagination so vividly I regretted the lack of paper and pen – why do I always forget? Sometimes, the best times, all effort relaxes – breath and movement in flow -- and it’s great to be alive.