Tag Archives: solstice

Have a greener Christmas

For the next couple of weeks, this blog is going to be all about having a greener Christmas, Yule, or whatever else you celebrate. I’m going to mostly say ‘Christmas’ because I think more people will find it if I do. Also, Christmas is the festival especially tied in to commercialmass, and it’s the specifically Christmas derived traditions that I am going to be challenging. So, if you’re having an eco-friendly Yule already, or a sustainable solstice, you probably don’t need what I’m wafting about. However, I’m asking for shares, tweets, reblogs and so forth on this content if you can spare me a moment over the coming weeks. (Not this one, this one doesn’t really have much in it…)

Christmas is a terrible time for waste, consumerism, debt and perpetrating the idea that stuff is what we need to be happy. As a species and as a planet, we can’t afford this kind of attitude.

Darkening Days

The day length changes most rapidly around the equinoxes. Shifting day lengths is a constant process through the year, with pauses at the solstices, but it tends to only register with me at certain points. I notice when I start having to get up in the dark – we aren’t quite there yet. On the other side of the year, I notice when I’m waking with the light, and I notice when it gets light too early and I stop reliably waking at or before dawn.

Here we are, in late September, and I’m noticing when it gets dark and how that impacts on my sleep patterns. At this time of year I’m inclined to go to bed after sunset, which is passably realistic. As the days get shorter, this will become less feasible, and some time – a month or so hence, I’ll stop feeling that urge, and will start being comfortable going to bed later.

Clearly my body has an inclination to sleep and wake with the setting and rising of the sun. In practice, the shape of days here when they move towards their natural extremes, doesn’t work for me. In summer I need more sleep than going to bed after ten and getting up about three would give me. In winter I need far less sleep than going to bed at half four and getting up at eight would give me. It’s interesting watching the interplay between body rhythms and light levels.

It’s at the times when I can most be in synch with the day length that I most notice how the day length changes. I also notice that, because of pre-dawn light and twilight, the equinox does not create an equality of light and dark. Light enters my room a little before half six in the morning, darkness falls a good deal later than half six in the evening. The stories we have about nature are not always fair representations of what it’s like in practice.

Flowers for the solstice

One of my ongoing issues with the Pagan concept of the wheel of the year is that it can focus a person’s sense of the seasonal down to eight key days. Outside, the cycle of the seasons is a process from day to day, and if you aren’t engaging with it day by day, you’ll miss things. That in turn can help perpetuate the simpler eight key points narrative because we don’t tend to see the things we aren’t looking for.

The demoiselle flies (smaller than dragonflies, but different from damselflies because they have dramatic black wings) tend to show up a few days before my birthday. A week ago there was a big hatching. A couple of days ago I saw my first dragonflies of the season. Most of the garlic has died back, most fledglings are now out of the nest, but there are still clutches of new ducklings hatching. That’s true where I live, for this year, but next year may be different.

This year I have particularly noticed the arrival of cranesbill flowers and meadowsweet. As there’s a lot of foliage growing, they were able to do all their leafy growth without my spotting them, but now the flowers are out, the plants are a distinctive presence. The purples of the cranesbill flowers, the misty clouds of fragrant meadowsweet. I didn’t have them in my head as a solstice flower, I don’t remember exactly when they appeared last year. I tend to think of meadowsweet as something that blooms later on, and perhaps it is. Many of the usual rhythms are being thrown out by climate change.

You have to catch a cranesbill just right to see why it has the name – the flowers themselves are nothing like cranes. It’s the forming flower bud, which, before opening, looks just like a head and beak. There an edge plant, so look for them in hedgerows, along shaded footpaths and at woodland edges.

More about cranesbill here – https://shop.reallywildflowers.co.uk/products-page/wildflower-plug-plants/meadow-cranesbill/

And a lovely piece on meadowsweet here with herbal and mythical properties https://whisperingearth.co.uk/2012/07/06/meadowsweet-queen-of-the-meadow-queen-of-the-ditch/

Solstice time

I will admit to not seeing in the dawn. I woke at seven with the alarm clock, with a body that hurts and no energy at all. This did not come as a great surprise to me, such that I had not made any solstice arrangements. This used to be one of the festivals I went to considerable effort to celebrate, with trips to Stonehenge, overnight vigils, dawn celebrations and so forth.

I can’t do it this year. My body simply isn’t going to take more abuse and I can feel the creeping warning signs of depression and exhaustion. Other people have greeted the sun today, I am not needed, I feel, and Druidry is not about martyrdom.

I’ve got a hard fight on my hands right now, one that I’ve been caught up in for years, but have finally got some movement on. You may have seen yesterday’s post about how charity should be charitable. If not, please do swing over and read that one, it’s important.

The trouble with fighting, as I’ve said before, is the fear of being hit harder and suffering more as a consequence. It may be that some of what has happened to me recently is as a direct consequence of putting in a complaint about the atrocious driving of the patrol boat. As ours seems to be the only boat round here hit by the latest insanity – a demand that we sit on our mooring, for which I can see no legal basis, I have to wonder if this is an attempt at harassment. I’ve heard stories about Canal & River Trust staff, back in the days when they were British Waterways, coming out to threaten protesting boaters in person. That may, of course, be hearsay and I have no direct evidence. But at the same time, the local enforcement officer has made sure everyone knows he’s ex-military, and (again, I only have this second hand) “here to sort us out” so I am nervous that he might turn up in person and that some serious stress awaits me. I find him intimidating.

On twitter, @canalrivertrust told me yesterday that they do not want to make anyone homeless, which I pointed out rather begs the question of why they go round threatening boaters with just that thing. Apparently someone is going to contact me. I’ve not checked my email yet, I do not think I can handle it today without getting ill. Anxiety is a ravaging sort of ailment and this pushes all the buttons. I won’t meet up in person to ‘chat’ though, I need written evidence so that I can put it in the public domain. I’m not looking for a deal that gets them off my back, I want justice for all boaters, and freedom from harassment for all boaters.

Others online have asked why I don’t take this to the Charity Commission, whose job, supposedly, is to monitor and police charities. I have done this, and so have others. Complaints are dismissed either because they do not consider it their place to involve themselves in disputes between boaters and CRT, or because (second hand here) they don’t see any conflict between making people homeless, and charity law. They certainly don’t have any problem with the idea that a charity has attempted to pressure me to act illegally. Nice one. That gives me so much faith in the Charity Commission, that frankly, I could weep.

And so for midsummer I offer tears, sweat and panic to the gods of justice, trying to fight a whole system that has been set up in inherently crooked and unreasonable ways.

Solstice time

The longest day, the shortest night, and the peak of the grass pollen. At least, I hope it’s the peak, if we get any more my head will probably explode. Pollen, that over produced essence of new plant life, wind borne to facilitate reproduction. In short, the plants are trying to have sex with my nasal passages. Not that they have in any way undertaken this consciously – I assume – but here the pollen is, failing to breed with my nose, which is probably as well.

It’s the time of year I am therefore least inclined to want to be outside, or in a field. An annual reminder that nature is not designed for the convenience of humans in any significant way.

Of course we evolved to deal with a lot more disease and bacteria than the modern human is normally exposed to. Allergies are, to some degree, a consequence of our over clean lives, and underworked immune systems. I’ve never had worms, or pustulant sores, the worst things I’ve had were flu bugs and a dose of tonsillitis. It doesn’t count for much in the scheme of things. In the absence of serious diseases to tackle, my body gets funny ideas about pollen, and here I am, eyes streaming, nose streaming, feeling like there’s a brick on my ribs, and praying for rain. This too shall pass. I wonder how far back this kind of unwellness goes, though. Did our ancient pagan ancestors suffer from hayfever too? Or is it more recent? (What are the odds one of you canny people reading this knows the answer?) I imagine that a prehistoric version of me would have long since been eaten by a passing wolf. Once the sneezing fits are upon me, I am both very obvious, and wholly incapable of shambling away, much less running.

Hail gods of midsummer sun, you who fill my orifices with planty attempts at reproduction, you who make my eyes stream and my throat ache. You who convince me that perhaps winter wasn’t so very bad after all. I am entirely convinced that this world was not created for our benefit. And, wheezing my way about like the proverbial consumptive badger, I don’t feel very confident of there being benevolent deities right now. Well, not benevolent to me. The grasses on the other hand, seem entirely happy – plenty of rain, enough sun, and now a few dry days at just the right time to get the pollen on the wind – there is some wind, but not too much. And why should the deities be benevolent to me? There are a lot more grass plants out there than humans. There are far more bacteria out there than humans. There are plenty of living things for which we function well as demons and destroyers. Perhaps we’ve all been very wrong about where we fit in the scheme of things.

Handkerchief anyone?