Even though spring has already arrived in Nice and some of the early blooms have died off, our return to England later this week marks the official end of winter for us – even if the weather in England doesn’t agree with that idea.
Naturally, I’m in a reflective mood, evaluating the past four months. The weather nicoise of nearly daily sunshine has dominated my assessment. I can say that it’s been a good winter break. This good feeling has been bolstered by meeting my writing targets for the time in France – most writers will tell you the importance of self-imposed deadlines and the arrogant self-satisfaction of meeting those deadlines. David and I also give the winter break full marks for being an opportunity to improve our French. It hasn’t bettered by leaps and bounds, but we both have noticed that following the news media, written and spoken, has become easier.
Above all else, it’s also been a good winter for reinforcing acquaintanceships and building new friendships. Being ex-pats, we naturally seek the company and wisdom of the more seasoned ex-pats on the Riviera. While this clearly has its benefits, it can be a tight compartment of overlapping Venn diagrams. People we know from the British Association might also be writers I know from the Nice branch of the Society of Authors or women from the International Women’s Club (which I only attended a few times). But this year’s Women’s March at least expanded my network, creating another Venn circle. I’m grateful for that.
With winter’s end I prepare mentally for a political spring with local elections in the UK and ongoing protests against Brexit and Trump. My writer self looks to the change in location and the start of a new season to view the quotidian differently and to be inspired to make connections between the mundane and the new and between my little existence and the bigger human landscape.
This reflective time with the changing of seasons also reminds me of the New England Transcendentalists, e.g. Emerson and Thoreau – the latter, especially. Thoreau was quite the diarist, logging the cycles and habits in his natural environment of the woods surrounding Walden Pond. I can’t think of a setting more different from the cityscape of Nice, with its seacoast and palm trees or the town of Ely, with its cafes and cathedral. But such is the power of the imagination. I close with a snippet of spring immortalised in words:
To a Marsh Hawk in Spring
There is health in thy gray wing,
Health of nature’s furnishing.
Say, thou modern-winged antique,
Was thy mistress ever sick?
In each heaving of thy wing
Thou dost health and leisure bring,
Thou dost waive disease and pain
And resume new life again.
–Henry David Thoreau