We are very close to the midwinter solstice and the shortest day. Physical darkness predominates at this time of year – often during the daylight hours as well. We frequently encounter grey, overcast skies. What a delight it is when we see the winter sun, or perhaps an occasional rainbow.
Even the sight of the full moon’s brightness brings joy.
We yearn for the light in winter and as advent advances, I find myself more and more enjoying not only the warmth of the fire, but also the heart-warming orange glow of the embers.
Irrespective of our religious beliefs, this time of year is very often a time of preparation, and perhaps also reflection. For me, certain activities enhance the sense of anticipation – the printing of a Christmas card in Studio Hundy or cutting greenery from the garden for a garland or door wreath; these are all part of what makes the lead up to Christmas special.
The earth feels as if it is somehow “slumbering” now, but there is still a lot of activity in nature, particularly amongst the many birds that visit our garden.
What a fantastic treat I had earlier in the week when I was refilling the feeder on the tall birch tree. Just before I came down from the ladder, a Long-tailed-tit perched itself on a branch just inches away. A few minutes later a “flock” of 8 to 10 of these beautiful birds arrived. The message was out!
Such synchronicity, given the lino-cut print I had prepared earlier in the month as my Christmas card!
My partner Clare and myself shared our recent creative processes at a small Open Studio event in August this year. Plays were performed, words were literally woven, stories were threaded together and Studio Hundy opened its doors exhibiting a series of 4 artworks, “memory fragments” created out of paper.
These “Paper thin memories” were the culmination of a personal transformatory journey following the death of my father in October 2016. Working with papers and other related materials cleared from the family home, I was inspired to transform these “objects” – so tangibly full of meaning – into artworks of some kind.
A synopsis of the 4 pieces that arose as part of this creative process can be viewed by following the Exhibitions link – Open Studio 2019
September is well underway. Harvested golden fields shine out across the landscape. Early morning mists and dew fall on cobwebs like glistening jewels.
Bird song has changed – the robin and the blue-tit seem to sing a different tone; or perhaps I’m just noticing them more? An occasional skein of geese fly over our house, with their evocative calls, echoing in the still cool air. And the fruiting process in our garden abounds.
The abundance of summer is gradually drawing to a close – so wonderfully depicted in Keats’ poem:
Season of mists and mellow fruitfulness,
Close bosom-friend of the maturing sun;
Conspiring with him how to load and bless
With fruit the vines that round the thatch-eves run;
To bend with apples the moss’d cottage trees,
And fill all fruits with ripeness to the core;
To swell the gourd, and plump the hazel shells
With sweet kernel; to set budding more,
And still more, later flowers for the bees,
Until they think warm days will never cease,
For summer has o’er-brimmed their clammy cells.
Verse 1 of 3
John Keats 1819
Rowans are often stripped of their berries by this time of year, but those that remain “glow” against the gradually turning foliage.
And the late flowering Rudbekia shines out in the darkening evening light.
For me autumn flowers bring a sense of hope and promise of the Spring to come, as the days grow short and the earth prepares to “close down” inwardly for winter.
The new beginnings associated with Easter are always accompanied in April/May by a sense of anticipation in nature; awaiting the sighting of the first House Martins or Swallows. I say sighting, but sometimes it is the awareness of their excitable “chatter”. It never fails to bring a feeling of jubilance, in the knowledge that these migrants have returned to build or re-build their homes for the summer.
It is a profound feeling that resonates deeply. This year it was on Good Friday that I was aware the blue sky had received those welcome dark shadows, flying rapidly in apparent purposeful endeavour. The depth of this event is, for me, beautifully encapsulated in the poem by Mary Webb published in 1928.
The swallows pass in restless companies.
Against the pink-flowered may, one shining breast
Throbs momentary music – then, possessed
With motion, sweeps on some new enterprise.
Unquiet in heart, I hear their eager cries
And see them dart to their nests beneath the eaves;
Within my spirit is a voice that grieves,
Reminding me of empty autumn skies.
Nor can we rest in Nature’s dear delight:
June droops to winter, and the sun droops west.
Flight is our life. We build our crumbling nest
Beneath the dark eaves of the infinite,
We sing our song in beauty’s fading tree,
And flash forth, migrant, into mystery.
by Mary Webb
Reference: Webb, M. (1930) The collected works of Mary Webb. Poems and The Spring of Joy. London: Jonathon Cape, 1928.