Tag Archives: winter

Winter Druidry

While I try to get outside when I can, winter isn’t a good time for me. I don’t handle slippery surfaces well – mud or ice – and the cold makes me hurt more. It’s not a good time of year for doing outdoors rituals, I can’t sit out. This can make me feel distanced from my path, so it’s useful to review the things I can do in winter.

It’s a good time to read, study, explore ideas and develop skills. I’ve done a lot to develop my writing craft this winter, and I’m learning about different cultures and the different ways in which people use language.

Online activism is always an option. I’ve not been doing so well with that lately.

Thanks to the internet, the winter can be spent plotting and planning. I am doing less in-person community, but I’m making plans for future activities. I’m developing some online ideas that I hope will cheer people. I’ve been talking to my local wassail folk with a view to getting more involved. I’m also exploring some creative collaboration.

While I’ve not written much blog content explicitly about Druidry in the last few months, I could do more of that and I might feel better for it. I have been working on a book for the Earth Spirit line at Moon Books which is about authenticity and sustainability, so that’s been where a lot of my more Druidic work has been happening.

I’m doing a lot of work on my own head. This is about knowing myself, and also about healing. I think I can count this as Druidic work. At the same time I’m learning a lot about how other people interact with the world, which hopefully will help me to be a more understanding and compassionate sort of person.

One of the things meeting up with other Druids always gave me was a chance to affirm my own Druid-ness. So, if you want to jump into the comments and talk about what you’re doing, as a Druid, or in any other way that is important to you, I’m delighted to offer that space. Being off on your own too much can make it harder to see what’s going on in your life. Check ins can be really good for thinking about how things are for you.


Winter birds

One of the true joys of winter for me, is looking out for birds who are winter migrants. Who is where at this time of year depends a lot on where you live. Helpfully, there’s lots of information online, and a mixture of looking up information and wandering round peering at feathery visitors can be highly productive.

The most dramatic visitors round here are the swans who have come down from the arctic circle. We also get a lot of migrating ducks, who are charming if less dramatic. My other seasonal favourite is the fieldfare, and I always keep an eye out for them. I have some good memories of large fieldfare flocks feeding on fallen, ice softened apples one winter. They’re a subtle bird, not unlike a thrush to look at, and easily missed if you aren’t paying attention. I spotted a flock outside my local co-op recently.

Winter brings its own conditions for birdwatching. In the bare branches of deciduous trees, birds can be a lot more visible at this time of year. However, winter light can really leech the colour out of everything, which can mean relying on silhouettes and bird calls to establish who you’re seeing. I’m a mediocre sort of birdwatcher, so sometimes all I can do is guess a family – a flock of probably finches or possibly tits… could be sparrows… There’s always more to learn, and time spent trying to figure out who I’m seeing slowly builds my knowledge base.


Winter Light

The place I live is made up of hills and valleys. The town of Stroud nestles (mostly) between the hills, with villages occupying other valleys. This place was carved out of the limestone by water working its way down to meet the Severn.

In winter, the sun doesn’t clear the hills much in some places. I have a friend whose home gets no direct sunlight at this time of year. For those on the hilltops there is still plenty of light, but also a lot of wind. Down in the valleys, where I live, it is a lot more sheltered, but also gloomier. 

I don’t experience the solstice as having any great impact. For me, the dark part of the year starts in early December and continues well into January. My sense of the light and the season has everything to do with how I experience light – and the absence of it – in my own home and that in turn has everything to do with where I live in relation to the hills.

I think it’s important to be specific and personal in our relationships with the natural world. Thinking about ‘nature’ as some sort of vague abstract won’t give you much. It’s easy to pay lip service to a vague idea, but a real relationship calls for specifics. 

How does the wheel of the year turn for you? What are your personal experiences of the seasons? What happens where you live?


First Frosts

While the first frosts can come a lot earlier in the autumn than they have this year, they are always a sign of the winter to come. For me, they never feel like a good sign. Granted, there is a kind of sharp beauty and clarity that also tends to come with the frosts. Frosty mornings tend to be bright and crisp, and can feature some intensely blue skies. However, cold weather tends to hurt.

My body doesn’t handle the cold well. I get stiff more readily, and I hurt more. I’m never going to appreciate the prettiness of frost with uncomplicated feelings of joy. At the moment I’m enjoying a life where I don’t have to head out on frosty mornings. It’s easier to enjoy the light and the sparkles while not being out there dealing with slippery surfaces. I’m also in the fortunate position of being able to afford to keep my home warm enough not to suffer at the arrival of frosts.

Being able to enjoy the winter tends to involve privilege. Enough money for heating and a body that isn’t threatened by the conditions are key. For some people, the reduced amount of sunlight causes depression. For many, winter is isolating. If you can enjoy the season, that’s lovely and you should do so. But please remember not to berate or shame people who express difficulty. And yes, while it’s true that there are no bad weather conditions, only unsuitable clothing, it is also true that you have to be able to afford that clothing, and not everyone can. A winter without a substantial coat is tough. I’ve been there. 

If it gets cold enough, you can’t wear enough jumpers to make up for not being able to afford to heat your home. If your home is a van, or a boat, if you sleep in your car, or are living in a tent or rough sleeping, winter is a very hard season. You can’t always tell by looking who is dealing with such issues. There are working people in the UK who live in cars and tents and hide it well. Please be gentle with the people who find winter difficult.


On the cusp between winter and spring

There were some days last week when it felt like spring. The wild garlic is coming up, there are snowdrops blooming, and the birds were singing in that way they do when they are thinking about mates, territories, nests and eggs.

Then we were down below freezing again, and there will be a few days of bitter cold. The transition from winter to spring is seldom smooth, which is one of the great challenges for everything trying to breed at this time. Start early and maybe get an advantage and time for a second brood.  Or get caught by the frosts, and set back – it’s true for plants as well as creatures. Spring is a gamble, one way or another.

Often at this point in the year I am so deep in the darkness of winter that I feel out of kilter with signs of spring. This year I feel ready for spring, I crave the sun more than ever, and I am heart open to those hopeful signs of life. I too need to put out fresh leaves, unfurl a bit, work out how to make new and to come back vibrant and entirely alive.


Nature in January

My relationship with the cycle of the seasons is weakest at this time of year. I don’t reliably go out every day, and when I do go out it isn’t for as long and I don’t walk as far, so I don’t encounter as many wild things.  But at the same time, this is a response to the season and a consequence of the nature of my own animal body.

January is a variable month – it can be freezing, it can be mild, this year it seems to be shifting between the two.  For me, it always feels like an in between month. In terms of wild things, mostly what I’m looking for is how early things are that I think should be showing up in February – the snowdrops, the buds fattening on trees, the first green shoots at ground level. This year I note tree leaves already opening, primroses in bloom and other unseasonal things.

My body does badly with the cold. I am more sore, and more stiff in cold weather. I layer up, I wrap up, I do all manner of things to protect against this but even so there’s an impact. Being outside when it is very cold takes a serious toll no matter how well dressed I am. That notion that there is no bad weather, only bad clothing is fundamentally wrong if you have body issues and/or a limited budget. I can’t afford to get soaked to the skin in winter. I know that my coat cannot fend off the worst of the downpours. Sometimes, I really can’t afford to go outside much.

‘Get out into nature’ is not a universal cure-all, and sometimes smacks of ableism. Winter can be limiting, not all bodies handle it well. If we are interested in encountering nature, we have to start with how we manifest it – our bodies are nature too. Nature is not always kind or convenient, and this is true of human bodies also.  It’s best not to assume anything about how the nature in a person’s body interacts with the wildness outside of it. 


Midwinter trees

At this time of year, the view from my living room window is of bare branches. The sun sets behind them, late in the afternoon. Most days, I sit somewhere I can watch the changing light. It’s often one of the most colour rich moments of the day. Sometimes, the winter sky is a dramatic blue as we shift towards night time.

I’ve tried to capture something of this with these small pen drawings. I’m also trying to be more relaxed about letting the pens look like pens. I’m trying to figure out how to work with the things that pens do, rather than pushing against it, but I’ve a way to go…


November Greys

One of the things I find hard about winter is the loss of colour. November is often a grey month – in the past it was normal for leaves to be off the trees by this point. Rain and fog, heavy cloud and a generally grey gloom are part of how I expect November to go, and the loss of colour always gets to me.

Writing at the end of November, I note that there are still green leaves out there, and many of the trees still bear autumn colours. We have had more of the grey days recently, and I woke this morning to fog.

One of the things I’ve learned over the years is not to be persuaded by the grey that there is no point going out. There will be colour, somewhere. There will be leaves on the ground that are bright even when the branches are bare. There will be the dark reds of hawthorn berries and the purples of sloes. There will be birds. There may be breaks in the cloud and moments of sun that brighten everything. Once outside, there will at the very least be more diversity in the grey than I can see from my windows.

I find winter hard, but I try to make the best of it. I think you can honour and respect a season without having to love it. I also think it is important to treat your own emotional responses with respect rather than putting yourself under pressure to feel what you think you are supposed to feel about seasons and festivals.


Waking with the light

I’m a very light sensitive sleeper. I have a lot of trouble sleeping when there’s light (unless a cat assists me!) and I tend to wake with the dawn. Around midsummer, this can leave me a sleep-deprived wreck if I’m not careful. For a long time now, winter has meant waking in the dark, and I’ve also found that difficult. My body is pretty clear that if there is darkness, I should be asleep, so midwinters can be… odd.

This year my son is studying for a degree course and I no longer have to deal with waking up ahead of going to school. We used to get up as a household because it is in many ways the nicer thing to do, and with a cycle ride to school, the mornings were early. In winter this has never suited me. So, this is the first winter in 18 years where there’s no alarm, or small child, and my body can do what it likes around waking up.

I find it a lot less stressful waking with the light. There’s no awful push first thing in the morning to force myself out of bed. I’m still waking fairly early, as my window faces towards the dawn, and pre-dawn light seeps in through the curtains. It feels so much gentler.

Clock time and alarm time go with industrial time. We have work and school lives that run by the clock – and there are advantages to this, but it is hard on the body. Our bodies are different, and what we need at different times of year and at different life stages can vary rather a lot. It is a wonderful thing to have some flexibility around that and to be able to let my body set the pace. Everything else this winter looks set to be challenging, so it’s helpful to have at least one thing lining up to be easier!


Signs of Winter

November can be decidedly wintery in the UK. Yesterday we had the first frost, and I thought about the September in my late teens when I camped at a folk festival and had ice on my tent. Autumns are definitely warmer than they used to be.

Frost is, without any doubt, a sign that winter is on the way. However, we’re certainly not done with autumn. Many of the trees not only still have their leaves, but those leaves have a significant amount of green on them. While it is getting colder, it isn’t all that cold most of the time – I’m still not reliably needing to have heaters on at night, and coats are not always necessary during the day.

Climate chaos is confusing. We’ve had some absolute deluges, and the heavy rain is unpredictable. As someone who mostly walks for transport, this really impacts on me. I don’t have waterproof gear that is waterproof enough to stand up to the kinds of rainstorms we’re now getting. In the colder weather, being soaked to the skin is really unpleasant. I don’t want to be trapped inside. But sometimes, it seems that a dry suit designed for water sports is about the only thing that might stand a chance of keeping the rain out.