Winter goes on. Last week an icy wind blew sheets of snow up the valley and across the hills, drifting in banks, filling up hollows and smothering all signs of spring. We are sheltered, here in this valley, on the outskirts of town. All round us on the hills, farmers have been struggling to find sheep buried in snowdrifts, and to try to rescue newborn lambs.
In our tiny back garden the snow piled up in curvaceous mounds and the patio table once again resembled a giant cake stand bearing a massive frosted cake. The last time this happened we felt playful and celebrated by decorating it with red apples and then cutting a slice of ice cake. This time the cold has got into our bones and our hearts, and we just want a thaw.
When the temperature rose a degree or so the cake developed a fringe at its edge like delicate lace, the finest filigree of frost. And slowly over the next few hours, meltwater dripped and the frost fringe lengthened and grew.
Water follows a course, finding its way along a path that’s already been established and reinforcing that same route, that same pattern. I watched the icicles build and get longer and stronger until they became a solid network of icy pathways for the meltwater to follow. My thoughts, my feelings and emotions have woven such pathways in my brain; over years and years of practice the meltwater of events now triggers reactions that inevitably course smoothly down those channels and lead me straight back to what caused the reaction in the first place, many years ago. It happens without warning, without consultation, and with inevitability, and every time I’m left feeling helpless, a victim of my seemingly permanent association with the past, my own personal ice age.
And yet I know that it doesn’t have to be so. Hard as it is to establish I do know that I can change the way I think, slowly and very much one moment at a time, and with glacial speed I can actually see myself beginning to sculpt new ways for my thinking. I have time; I tell myself, why hurry? Why not be patient, and learn to go slowly?
A pale and wintry sun made a brief appearance around the side of the house and warmed the glass and steel of the table just enough for the frost cake to slide, very slightly, to one side and bring more meltwater to the edge where it started to drip and erode the frozen fringe. Drops ran freely and fast, breaking fragile connections and the whole thing gradually lurched sideways threatening to crash in an avalanche. But the temperature dropped again; frost started to take hold, and now new threads of ice spun and connected in a web that had changed. New pathways had been made.
I know next time my ice age suddenly imposes itself on me I won’t be prepared, or not enough to stop myself from spinning out of control for a few moments. I know I will still feel gripped by anxiety and sometimes panic. But I know one thing, and I remind myself of it as I reassure myself and try to breathe slowly and be calm; this is not set in ice or in stone. Change is happening. I just have to be patient and feel it grow, even if it is at the speed of a glacier.