As I walked today with a friend in the valley that I live in, the dogs chasing around our legs, we reflected on the time of year. Around us the detritus of autumn, mouldering leaves, trees rapidly becoming naked and muddied paths making our boots dirty. I spoke of the edge of melancholy that colours my mood as the nights draw in and the darkness takes hold. We pondered the almost palpable feeling of being lost in the world. That disorientation and need for introspection that is the gift of the earth as it changes its coat from golds, reds, and russets to greys, blacks and browns. I am always shocked that at this time we start to ratchet things up and charge headlong towards Christmas. The decorations have been up in the shops for weeks and the clamour for our attention by the advertisers warning us there is little time to get your shopping done before the big day is upon you.
This is not a curmodgeonly moan about the loss of the real meaning of Christmas and the woes of materialism. Rather a desire to listen to my body and spirit that are asking for a very different response to the the season than to become busier and to focus more of my life’s energy outside myself. Everything in me desires slowness, deliberation, care of the soul. To take stock, read long novels and poems that demand I work to plumb their depths. Once such poem I read on another valley walk this week was by Dylan Thomas who always touches me at this time of year – he died in November and was born in October. ‘The force that through the green fuse drives the flower drives my green age’. An early poem of his and full of his structured lyricism. In my poem Arriving in Magic I name myself ‘novice to the green flame in the bud’. This is a conscious reflection on Dylan’s metaphor. The green force for me is the life within and all around us, the power that births us and winds us down towards our ending. The green fuse burning and leading us through various flowerings and fallings. So as the sap is being drawn deep into the tree’s core and the sun shines for such short spells I too want to go inward and hear what my life has to tell me.
December, for me, should be a time of introversion, for writing down the lessons I have learned and feeling the sadnesses I have avoided in the summer of busyness. To make fires with the fallen leaves and mix the dried fruits into puddings and cakes. To kindle lights and prepare for the midwinter festival which our ancestors called Yuletide. Yule meaning wheel. The wheel of the seasons that the sun traversed and came to a dying on the 21st December – the solstice. How clever for the Christian Church to make this a time when the vulnerable Son is to be born into uncertainty and darkness. I need to match my pace to that of nature whose mothering is swaddling everything in cold and snow so that the sleeping seeds will die and only in that death find the new life of spring. The magic of this season is summed up for me in these lines, again from Arriving In Magic.
This magic is the fierce embrace
of all that makes up our life’s course,
uttered bold in faith to the deep
unsleeping witness of the dark.