Category Archives: Seasons

Winter poetry

Pagan thinking around winter tends to focus on sleeping so as to rebirth in the the spring. However, not all seeds that lie in the earth will live to germinate. For many people, seasonal affective disorder makes the winter a hard time. The rising cost of living will make this winter cold and brutal for many. I think it’s helpful to acknowledge and honour the darker side of the year with all that it can bring.

Winter


Frost fingers needle skin

Ice forming in weary bones

Let me lie down now.

Bury me under snow and let us

See if truly I am a seed

To wake in the spring

With the promise of new life.

March, perhaps, or April.


A bulb, fat with potential,

Resilient against the cold,

Firm holding, thaw me

And I will blossom.

Perhaps.


If only I could slumber

As bears do, waiting out

The dark days.

Enclose me snug

In some snow cave

Forgetful months.


Perhaps it is only winter

And not an Ice Age

The chill in my heart

Temporary, soon eased

Not the slow cracking advance

Of another glacier reaching

To engulf me, not the silence

Not the life that is death.

Only winter in these bones

Surely, only winter coming.


Numbing at the edges.

Fingers and feet

Cold beyond reckoning.

Waiting for the chill

To extend along limbs

Stealing breath

Tiny snowflakes

In my eyelashes

Layering up softly

Inside my lungs.


Winter always kills

Lie me down gently

On the iron hard ground

Let the ice take me

I am too tired to fight.


Perhaps in spring

With tears or meltwater

It will matter

Whether I was a seed

To grow fresh shoots

Germinating in the cold

Or whether I could not

Find the means to thrive.


It is only winter.

Surly not an ice age

Surely not forever.

Let the freeze take me

And try to believe

Spring will offer

A beginning.

Closing the windows

This is always a key point in the wheel of the year for me – the closing of the windows. It’s now cold enough that the windows have to be shut at night. There will no doubt be days when I can have them open for a while – or choose to put up with the cold in order to freshen up the air in the flat a bit.

With the windows closed, I can’t hear the nearby stream while I’m lying in bed. Every year I feel this loss keenly. I won’t pick up the subtle sounds of leaves and birds or of fish jumping, as they tend to at night. I might not hear the foxes and badgers who sometimes pass under my window at night. I will still hear the owls because they come in close, and are loud, and we often don’t have any significant background noise that would drown them out.

Many people this year will be facing the implications of a cold house for the first time. Closed windows can mean waking up to condensation. If you can’t keep your home warm, it will get damp. Having damp beds is horrible, and will make you even more cold. If you’re new to all of this I cannot emphasise enough the value of staying dry even if you can’t stay warm. Being dry means not having mould, and is less cold than being damp at the same temperature. 

If you have no money to throw at this problem, the only option is to throw time and effort at it. Of course not everyone can do that, and this situation is cruellest for people who are ill, disabled or so overworked that they do not have the resources to handle even more work. 

You might be able to cut down the amount of moisture in the air by reducing the amount of boiling you do, and cutting the length of showers. Drying laundry is a nightmare if your home is cold and you also can’t afford to run clothes-drying technology. And when it works you just add more problem-moisture to your home.

Physically drying all the windows every morning helps get water out. Opening windows when you can helps with the damp if it isn’t also damp outside. It doesn’t help at all with the cold. 

If you can afford to invest in anything, or run anything then I recommend going for a dehumidifier rather than a heater. They aren’t that expensive to run, and they do add warmth. They speed up the drying of laundry and they are good against dampness and mould. Not everyone is going to be able to afford to do that, either.

Whatever you are up against this winter, I hope you’re able to find ways of coping and managing. I’m afraid that for a lot of people in the UK, things will be grim.


Hawthorn

Despite the drought this summer – or perhaps because of it – the hawthorn berries are especially luscious. I’m not sure I remember ever seeing them this plump.

As the autumn progresses, that bright red will fade to a duskier shade, as berries are striped from branches by birds, rodents and squirrels. Perhaps this abundance will help keep creatures alive in the coming months. I have no sense of how badly the wild beings were hit by the summer heatwave, but my feeling is that we lost far too many of them.


Windfall apples

One of the things I love most about autumn, is encountering windfall apples. The fruits themselves are of course pretty to look at, but it’s the decay process that most engages me. Apples that have fallen from trees get on with rotting and fermenting, and the smell of that is heady and wonderful. I have a keen sense of smell, and find scents deeply evocative – most people do, I think. Rotting apples are great.

They aren’t wasted. Many insects will feed on decaying fruit. So will wild mammals. Birds will eat the fruit, and the insects who were feeding on the fruit. Windfall apples are blessings for so many other beings. I have a particular memory of a winter when my then neighbours didn’t pick much of the fruit from their apple tree, and a great deal of apples ended up on the ground. This attracted an enormous flock of fieldfares who feasted there many times. It was wonderful to watch.

Humans are often too quick to want to tidy things up. There are blessings in messiness, in decay and in the fruit left to rot on the ground.


Greeting the sun

Druidry often has a strong solar component to it, and I’m aware of a number of Druids for whom greeting the sun in the morning is definitely a thing.

Like most people, I’ve spent most of my life obliged to live by clock time while ignoring my natural rhythms. However, in the last few years I’ve had much more opportunity to live without alarms in the morning and it’s given me the chance to find out what my body does when left to its own devices.

It turns out that this is a highly seasonal thing for me. I’ve always hated getting up in the dark during the winter. Being able to wake with the light means that I also tend to stay up much later at this point in the year than at any other. During the spring, I wake with the dawn, and that process becomes ever less viable as the hours of light in the day increase. At some point – probably in May, I stop waking with the dawn, and during the summer my sleep patterns tend to be erratic – heat doesn’t help with that. Then as autumn progresses, I start waking with the dawn again.

Now that I’ve had more than a year to think about it, I find it makes perfect sense that I don’t have a fixed relationship with the sun. I’m greatly affected by seasonal shifts, so my body does very different things at different times of year. No doubt other people would respond in different ways. 

I’m also not surprised to find that I’m far more comfortable when I can sleep and wake according to my own needs. Clock time really hasn’t been good for me. I’m fortunate in being in a situation where I can honour my own needs and nature, and I wonder how much human health is impacted by not being able to do that.


First signs of autumn

There was a time when I would have taken blackberries as a first sign of autumn, but more normally now they appear around my home in August. I think of apples as very much an autumnal thing and yet here we are at the end of August, and I’ve seen windfall apples. The stress caused by drought has turned some trees early – although not to many where I live.

There is however a crispness in the air first thing in the morning. It’s the uneasy taste of a new school term that reminds my body of stresses from the past. Which is a pity because of itself, that morning crispness is delightful and welcome.

I’m watching grass returning to life now that the days are less hot and we’ve had some rain. So while in theory the end of summer is supposed to be about harvest and things dying off, that’s not what’s happening on my doorstep. Climate chaos is impacting on the wheel of the year. I think it’s really important not to insist on those old stories about what happens when, but to be alert to what’s happening now. And anyway, the wheel of the year was always far more complicated than the stories Pagans like to tell about it.

No matter where you are in the wheel of the year, something is always starting and something is always dying.


Wild orchids

My experience of the wheel of the year is not about celebrating festivals. What I most like to engage with are the seasonal events in my local landscape – the timing of which varies somewhat from year to year. Over time, I’ve built up an understanding of how the seasons occur in the local landscape, and there are certain things that are particularly important to me.

One of those things is getting to see the wild orchids. The hill nearest my home usually has a lot of orchids on it at this time of year. I can’t claim any confidence around telling the pinky purple ones apart. I love the bee orchids especially, and I’ve seen half a dozen this year, which is amazing.

The photo doesn’t really do justice to the profusion out there at the moment.


Michaelmas Daisies Are Confusing

Apparently Michaelmas daisies aren’t native to the UK, but were introduced from America in the 1700s! They grow enthusiastically at this time of year, and the bees and butterflies like them.

To further confuse matters, this isn’t Michaelmas – that’s in September.

But here they are anyway, cheerfully flowering in a green space near the centre of town. I see them a lot on roadsides. They are an iconic summer plant for me.

Although for further confusion, since I first posted this blog it’s been pointed out to me that these may not be Michaelmas daises at all, but Oxeye daisies, and I still have no idea (having looked at the internet) how you would tell them apart! It’s quite possibly the case that some of the other images for Michaelmas daisies online were actually oxeye daises and that there are different schools of daisy naming and that it isn’t just me!


Spring greens

Vibrant new growth photographed on a day with some sunlight. I love the colour, and the intensity of new life emerging from the soil. There were bees, but I’m not fast enough with a camera to capture and image of one, and have much the same problem taking pictures of small birds. Plants I can manage!


And so it was spring

I saw lambs at the weekend. Some of them were very small and clearly hadn’t been out and about for many days. The garlic has its leaves up and the blackbirds have started singing fairly reliably at the end of the day.

After what has felt like an impossibly long and grey winter, there is finally sun. It’s still cold here, but not as cold as it has been.

I’m not experiencing a rush of energy or enthusiasm. I’m feeling relief – to a mild degree. I crave light and warmth, but I don’t know how much difference that will make when I’m also craving peace, economic sanity and responsible leadership. Here in the UK things are grim. Killing people with the cold, with hunger, with poverty isn’t quite as dramatic as killing them with bombs. I grieve for the people of Ukraine, but I live in a country where class war is killing people every day and no one is going to send us arms to fight back.

Fewer people will die when it gets warmer. We can have the windows open and improve our chances of not getting covid. Spring offers some relief, but not enough.