Sometimes too there are unexpected treats; seeing a flock of long tailed tits flit between trees against a sunset sky last week, or the kites that are now a regular sight on the outskirts of town, never mind the Peregrines that seem to be spreading around the city centre. Or even the strong smell of quinces coming from the museum garden that's only a small detour to walk past on my way home (some still on the tree, obviously quite a lot rotting beneath it, there are medlars in there too, and figs which never ripen).
I've been thinking about my love for winter a lot, especially how that's tied up with how and where I live, whilst reading 'The Light in the Dark', which is more or less about how much Clare has come to struggle with it. The last couple of winters having been bad enough for him to question his sanity.
I think we're generally getting better at talking about mental health issues, but its still a brave decision to publish a book like this about your experiance of depression, not least because it invites speculation and judgements about your life which might not be at all welcome. At least, I'm not particularly comfortable with the way I ended up wondering about aspects of Clare's life and relationships, though I think one of the strengths of the book is the way in which it made me question some of my own reactions to it.
After a particularly hard time getting through the winter of 2016-17, Clare kept a journal for the Winter of 2017-18 as one coping mechanism against the season. It starts at the end of August, making the most of the last golden days of summer and the slow slide into Autumn, before a terrible omen for he coming months. Badger baiters set their dogs on Clare's mother's sheep. The results are horrific, and amongst other things there are metaphors here for how powerless depression can leave you, it's also a stark reminder that our vision of country life and it's reality are often at odds.
From there it's a balancing act between work and family on the one hand, and self care on the other. Clare lives in Hebden Bridge (a little bit of North London in Yorkshire) which seems like a compromise between family commitments and preference, but there's an ambivalence to the North that runs through the book which makes it feel like an uneasy compromise at best. There are more tensions within the family that are hinted at, but not quite followed up on and in that respect the balance of the book is off. I feel that this is something that should have been explored more thoroughly or excised completely
Otherwise the nature writing part of the book is beautiful (Clare writes sky and cloud the way Constable painted them), there is much there to take comfort from, and even to luxuriate in. When he talks about his students his anger and frustration on their behalf is infectious, and also a positive sign for his own state of mind that he still has the energy to feel like that on others behalf.
The end is important too, a final screwing up of courage to see a doctor to find out exactly what the problem is as the winter ends. Worst fears turn out to be unfounded, a palpable relief the reader can share.