31st January 2023
We spoke to The Almanac author Lia Leendertz about tuning into the season, how she makes home more klys in the winter and the magic waiting to be discovered above us and below our feet in coming months…
Photography by Kirstie Young
One of your intentions behind writing The Almanac is to “provide a set of keys to unlock various aspects of the seasons and help us all appreciate the moment we are in, rather than stumbling, blinkered, through the year.” Why do you think it’s important to avoid such stumbling?
We can live like that and a lot of us do. I probably do too. I’m not coming at it from the point of view that I am living fully in the moment all of the time.
But it is about mindfulness, about living in the moment, and experiencing things more fully than you might otherwise. That always has benefits mentally. I think there is so much to be appreciated about our seasons. On this island, we have relatively extreme seasons, we have a full range and it actually changes very frequently. And each month is actually pretty distinct. By February, the light is starting to come in and that there’s a hopeful, seed-sowing feeling and by March we’re fully into the anticipation of spring.
There are lots of marvels to be found right there in front of you that are a really lovely thing to appreciate once you tune into it.
How does The Almanac help us experience more when we’re outside?
One of things I try to do with looking at the stars is to show that this big cosmic universe is literally right there. Take the bright planets, they can be spotted from the most rubbish of skies; you could be in a city centre and look up and see Mars.
Being able to appreciate that even in our most urban environments and, then my goodness, in more rural places, like Cornwall, which are so great for seeing the stars. In all of these places you can tune into this big cosmic stuff and little, minute stuff in nature. It’s just so exciting, I think.
What are some of the smaller, unnoticed elements of the year you look at in the latest edition of your book?
Coming up, it’s those signs of spring that you can’t help but feel uplifted by, it’s quite ludicrous almost.
In December it can feel like winter is going on forever, all mud and sticks and then these little shoots come pushing through and it’s just irresistible, that feeling of hope, that the world keeps on turning is so reassuring: a little signal from the future, a pointer saying here it comes, all that good stuff, warmth, light, flowers, and buzzing bees, it’s all coming. Also the effect that the lengthening days has on us is irresistible. It takes me by surprise every year.
And what about later in the year?
The theme for the 2023 edition is the solar system and zodiac – I’m looking at the stories behind the zodiac too.
I’ve been saving it up, because this is a particularly good year for spotting the planets. Sometimes they will line up with the sun so you can’t really spot them. But this year is going to be a really good year.
August is going to be really spectacular. Saturn is going to be at opposition; that’s basically when we are at our closest to it in the cycle, both on same side of sun, at our closest point. When we are looking at the night sky, the sun is shining on Saturn, sort of like a full moon. At the same time the rings are going to be open, be at their most visible. You’ll be able to look up at the night sky with a basic pair of binoculars and glimpse Saturn in all its glory.
There are other opportunities to see the planets just by looking up at the night sky with your own eyes, but Saturn is the big one for 2023.
Winter is when I most want to go for long walks and want to be outside, striding through the countryside, putting some distance under me, getting air into my lungs. I walk a lot more now that I’ve got dogs. Owning dogs, you don’t really get a choice, it doesn’t matter what the weather is like – the horrible wet weather or those lovely, crisp, fresh winter days.
What I have written a lot about in the 2023 edition is the idea of the cycle of the year in terms of our own energies. So in January and February allowing ourselves to be the mammals that we are, to hibernate a little, and not feel we have to thrust ourselves into the business world.
Of course, we do have to, but to try, within that, to find ways of being peaceful and calm, recognising that real need to not do the new year, new you thing. This is an entirely inappropriate time of year to be doing that!
This is the hunkering down time, hibernation time. We shouldn’t be fully emerging until early February, or early March. We should be tending to our energies in that way. When you’re not out and about doing that active stuff, it’s about really allowing yourself to sink into that, in order to set ourselves up for the year ahead. There is light coming and there are more active times coming, but this isn’t them, so let yourself have it.
How do you create klys feelings inside at this time of year?
I’m a big fan of candles perhaps even more so than fires. I feel like candles can give you a lot of that sort of atmosphere, that cosiness.
I make quite free with the candles these days. I try and light them every tea time and actually breakfast time as well. A breakfast candle is really gorgeous. It’s not about saving candles for best. Every day, and every morning, while it is still dark early in the morning; it doesn’t take any more time and just makes you settle in and feel: ‘ok, I’m allowed a little magic moment even in the most everyday of times’. Whether before you rush out to work or getting the kids to school, it’s a little, special cosy moment. So, yes, making free with the candles at all times.
We’ve looked at how connecting with the natural environment through foraging can bring something special to the table at this time of year. Do you have a foraging tip for right now?
Every week I go on woodland walk nearby and every week at the moment I’m scouring the ground looking for wild garlic shoots because they will start to come up really soon. They’re such an amazing and easy plant to forage, and so abundant when you find a patch.
It’s also very easy to identify, by smell as much as anything and has loads of uses. You can make very easy pesto and add it to bread, You can use it like chives and chuck it into all sorts of recipes. It’s a really good gateway plant into foraging generally. And a really nice sign the world is turning the way we want it to. I love the way that wild garlic just can’t resist, even if it’s so cold, if daylight is increasing it’s coming up, no matter what