Winter, how to survive the darkness…

Winter sky from our house

Winter is now firmly with us. This morning Dunoon was sheathed in ice, and I sit here just after 5PM and it it totally dark outside.

I confess to dreading the dark long winters- longing for spring again. Like many of us, my mood always takes into itself some of the dark over the fallow season. Some of us have real issues with this- it makes us ill. If this is you, I hope that this year is easier than most.

As for me, I can not describe my ennui as anywhere near as severe as Seasonal Affective Disorder– rather I just get a bit stuck in a dark trough, so this year I am trying to re-order the way I think about winter. I know it to be beautiful, inspiring, meditative. A few years ago I wrote this poem at the sight of snow on the hills over the loch from where I live;


First snows


The first snows of winter bring their blessing

To the hills across the loch

Yesterday dull and grey

Now blue-white crystal and pure


Soon it will be gone

Rain will bring decay

Rending white all mottled brown

Until the snow, all rotten

Is released

Worming down into dark earth


But for now, my eyes are drawn to high lands

Captured by reflected sun

Sparkling, showing no shadow

Driving out the dark things of the winter


Dressing up light for the dancing

And leading me on


Dressing up light for the dancing

Then gone


CG 2005.

The strange fact, revealed today in Radio 4’s programme Digital Nation, darkness is good for you. The problem is that most of us rarely experience it- we surround ourselves with artificial light. We screw up our serotonin levels by staring at bright computer screens before we go to bed, we forget what the stars look like, or what it means to find a natural rhythm of day/night.

So, here is my suggestion- let us embrace darkness. Let us see it as a blanket wrapping us for rest, for friendship, for interior creativity.

Today I spent much of the day making things;

First this;

driftwood fish

Then, as the ultimate winter food stuff, a great big pan of pickle;


This evening I am going to spend some time with friends.

So, may your winter be full of darkness, so that you might rest from harsh artificial light.

May your interior spaces be warm and full of friendship and creativity.

And may the stark beauty of the fallow wild places speak to your heart.


My mate Andy has too much time on his hands!

Find him some DIY to do Clare- quick- or at very least some dishes…

Otherwise he will post yet more embarrassing video clips of me on YouTube.

This (I think) was taken clandestinely during one of our ‘wilderness retreat’ trips. Dancing is not usually encouraged, but I must have come over all 1970’s.

I am looking forward to spring though- Christmas day is past, and the uphill climb through the hard soil of winter can begin…

After the wind, snow…

The weather is playing with us.

This morning heavy snow flurries cancelled my trip to Bute.

But by this afternoon, everywhere was calm and still.

I took this from our bedroom window earlier-




























Despite the poor light I was too lazy to set up a tripod. Here is another one, taken from William’s bedroom…

The view from the middle of the Clyde…

I braved the low temperatures and crossed over to ‘the other side’ today. My intention was to go to Helensburgh, but Greenock was full of slithering cars and covered in freezing fog, so I rather tamely retreated.

But no time is wasted. I made some phone calls from the ferry- and appreciated the stillness.

The ferry is a great place to do this. It moves at a steady slow pace- giving around 25 minutes just to sit and think. It sometimes seems a very long time, and other times no time at all.

Today I had the camera with me too…

Winter calls us to fireside…

It is a cold night.

It feels as though winter is with us now- the trees are almost bare apart from a few rattly dry leaves. Frost is on the windows of the car, and the sky has a cold clarity that brings out the wonder in me.

Not that I linger long before the expanse of it- rather I shiver and feel the beckoning call of the fireside.

Tonight our housegroup met- we watched the second of the recent ‘Big Silence‘ series.

As ever there was much laughter first though- my favourite story tonight was from Pauline, who described taking her grand kids on the train into Glasgow, and being uncomfortable as they were sitting next to some loud sweary young people.

“It was great last night” shouted one. “We got pissed and talked about good stuff like drink and sex and zombies!”

Drink and sex- fair enough.

But zombies?

Winter makes cathedrals out of ice…

Took a lovely walk with the Mosley’s yesterday afternoon. Up into the hills and down Pucks Glen.

There had been a partial thaw, but the path was treacherous in parts.

Worth it though- for the company, the joy of seeing kids having fun in the wild, and for this-

Winter’s own towers and minarets.

A Cathedral for a while…