Three things I learned or loved this month
We think of the natural world as following a four-part rhythm, but spring, summer, autumn, winter don’t always quite fit. A freezing cold March doesn’t feel like spring, and November can be “all wrong for autumn”, as the American writer Kurt Vonnegut observed. Instead, he suggested, there are six seasons in the year, including a ‘locking’ season in November and December to lead us into winter, and an ‘unlocking’, in March and April, before spring unfolds.
I came across Vonnegut’s six seasons last week, as part of a writing workshop inspired by Japanese microseasons – an ancient tradition in which the year is divided into 24 periods, and sub-divided into 72 even shorter ones.
The descriptions of each five-day season read, in the English translation, like poetry. Mists start to linger. Warm winds blow. Rice ripens. Swallows leave. Gentle reminders that the world around you changes constantly, even if our man-made world feels stuck or monotonous. If we marked the passing of time in these shorter, subtler seasons – not just in terms of a new year – would we use it differently?
Another fascinating fact to make you rethink how you spend time: researchers have now realised that for thousands of years, people slept in two shifts, not one. They used their waking hours around midnight, known as “the watch”, to do housework, socialise, pray or have sex. In a society pretty obsesssed with optimising wellbeing, including sleeping well, I feel like this takes the pressure off if you’re not getting a solid eight hours each night.
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This month I started working with a new mentee as part of the CharityWorks graduate scheme, but also switched into mentee mode myself, thanks to the Digital Women Leaders programme. The set-up is incredibly efficient, making it easy to find someone with relevant experience and schedule a 30-minute call – and it’s free. This mentoring programme is specifically for women and non-binary people working in journalism, but they encourage other industries to ‘steal’ their model. Tips on replicating their professional mentor scheme are here.
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A civil partnership ceremony we were invited to in January became, at the very last minute, a different kind of union.
A mix-up with the papers meant the registry office had booked in our friends for a marriage instead of a civil partnership, and despite never intending to become husband and wife, they decided to go for it. Their spontaneity and contentment – plus a Friday afternoon spent drinking champagne together – made for a happy collection of souls.