Tag Archives: dark

The dark half of the year

I have struggled with winter for a long time, and so the darkening days of autumn can leave me feeling gloomy. This year I have committed to trying to find happier ways through the dark half of the year.

The first thing to say is that there’s a lot of privilege tied up in finding the winter easy. Money for comforts, a washing machine, a tumble drier, the means to dry clothes, enough clothes that getting soaked through isn’t a problem. Enough money for heating and eating, and for the food to be of a good quality that will keep you going. If you get to the autumn anxious about what a hard winter will do to your energy bill, inevitably it’s not going to be easy. If the cold and damp increases pain, it’s not a cheerful prospect.

I’ve been in those places. For many of us, bad weather, slippery surfaces or snow can be really isolating. For the elderly, a fall can be a death sentence. Cold kills people. Cold makes homes damp, and damp homes grow mould, and mould is not good for people. This year, we will be buying a dehumidifier, so we won’t have to have a cold home from opening windows each day to keep it dry. This is a luxurious prospect.

In previous winters, the dark nights, the footing and my energy levels have kept me in, and left me feeling isolated. This is one of the major things I intend to do better with this year. We’ve bought a head torch, a small luxury that means walking in the dark will be safer and we can use all the summer shortcuts. I’ve got better at spoon juggling, and I mean to use that to make sure I can get out at least a few times each month for evening events. Not having a car, winter transport is challenging, but with better kit, we can do it. Of course not everyone can afford better kit, or a car, or the fares for public transport.

The more marginal your way of life is, the greater a need there is for warmth and comfort in the winter months. With this body, I won’t be skipping through the snow at any point. But, I know where to get saunas if the cold causes too much pain, and this year, if I need it, I will go. It’s all about having a little flexibility in the budget. Small differences can make very large differences, and I intend to make the very best of everything I can so that this winter is less depressing for me, and for anyone else around me I can manage to extend some cheer to.

The landscape of light

So here we are at the turning of the year, the mistletoe has been cut in various places, Druids have been out and about at Stonehenge, and soon the days will start that slow process of getting longer again, at least round here.
I realise that the impact of the wheel of the year is bound to vary depending on how far you are from the equator. I struggle to imagine living closer to the arctic circles, with the long night of winter and the long day of summer. I rather suspect that would drive me nuts, but evidently plenty of people manage to live with it. I find it equally hard to imagine the stable nature of light and dark nearer the equator. I‘m too involved with the cycle I was born into.
The balance of light and dark across the year, and the shape of the seasons is closely tied to the land we live on – or at least where that land is in relation to the shape of the planet, its tides and climates. Here in the UK, the Gulf Stream keeps us warmer than neighbours to the east at the same latitudes. Where Tom came from a lot of weather tended to come down from the Arctic over the winter months, making for a very different kind of winter. I’m conscious of the warming effect of the River Severn too, not needing to get that far away to notice a temperature difference.

The shape of the hills affects the patterns of light and dark too. For me, down by the river, the coming of first light and the timing of the sunrise is affected by the Cotswolds. The sun has a great big hill line to get over before I’ll see any sign of it. It sets over the Forest of Dean for me, too, that’s another hefty hill range. For a person living in the shadow of even bigger hills, or mountains the patterns of light and dark will be even more influenced by this, and living on an open plain is a whole other experience.

It makes me realise just how local the experience of the shortest day is bound to be, because it’s going to be a lot shorter for those of us with hills, and all those other variables.

Today I am celebrating being where I am, wet and grey though it is. It’s not like anywhere else. Nowhere is.