Winter can be cruel

The darkness cover us, and cold winds close us off from one another

December comes, and the trees are bare

The hillsides become an impassable sponge, soaking up the rain that never seems to be far away

Where once a thousand bluebells blazed, it is now almost impossible to believe that anything can ever live again.

And into this time, comes the season of Advent

A time of waiting

A time to dare once again to hope

A time to re imagine the coming

Of a King

Who might yet

Light up everything

In brand new spring

Starlit darkness…

The stars are out.

And Michaela reminded me of a discussion we had a few years ago about the mystery of God. It stemmed from me quoting Gregory of Nyssa, who apparently said something like this-

The move towards God is a journey into Holy darkness.

It really resonated with me- it spoke of the mystery of God, and the presence that we often feel in open spaces. It also spoke to me of a process of unknowing that I was experiencing at the time- a loosening of absolutes and a discovery of faith that is no longer built from stones, but is made up of reflected flecks of light.

The first collection of writing I put together was called ‘Blue Dark‘ because of old Gregory… and because of a lovely poem by our friend Susan.

At the time of our discussion, some of my friends (and Michaela) did not get it. God is LIGHT not darkness they said. Darkness is about fear and loneliness…

Then Michaela had this encounter with starlight.

And, unusually for her, wrote a lovely poem. I thought it time to reproduce it here, along with some photo’s taken this evening…

Starlit darkness

In the darkness
Is a childhood fear
Safe from one streetlight
To the next
Fear locked away
Till I am again
Out alone
No streetlights to rely on

In the darkness
Is no hope
No mystery
At best nothingness
At worst a nightmare
Waiting to happen

But then you talk
Of the starlit darkness
And I remember for a moment
The fear
The quick steps up our hill
Only to stop halfway
Breath taken by the beauty
Eyes lifted heavenward
Thankful for the big sky
Eyes searching something familiar
But yet awesome

No more fear
Only wonder
At the beauty of the darkness
That brings out the stars.

Michaela Goan
December 2007


A bit of respite from the storms- Bruce Cockburn…

It has been so wet and wild here all week. Storms and very heavy rain.

I had a wild drive to Lochgilphead today- roads awash, wipers on high speed. The Royal Navy sheltering in Loch Fyne- grey on grey.

In these dark days and long nights, we tend to close down and retire to the fireside with our thoughts. It can be so oppressive.

What we need is something beautiful to light up the soul. So here is a bit more of my favourite musician/poet, singing of a longing for something beyond…

Vodpod videos no longer available.

more about “respite from the storms- Bruce Cockbu…“, posted with vodpod


Night comes soon…

The dark nights are always a surprise when the clocks change from BST to GMT- it was already dark when I was home from work at 5.15.

Winter feels that step closer.

Darkness is rising.

So on this All Saints Day- may some fractals of light make their home in your soul.

For the winter is long

But also


the clyde, november, nightime, western ferries, dunoon

Life is precious…


I have not posted any poetry recently.

This is partly because I have not written any recently- these things tend to come in batches. I have also been busy writing some other stuff.

I thought it time to post an old poem though…

For my day job, I work with people who have mental health problems. In one of the towns where I manage staff, there have been a spate of suicides recently. This time of year, when the days are short and stormy, and the nights are dark and cold- it can be fatal for those of us for whom life already is hard.

Each and every time this happens, the impact on the whole community is dreadful.

Because life is precious.

I have posted something earlier about Choose life , and breathing space. Suicide rates in Scotland are just too high.

A few years ago, we lost someone I knew well- another victim of a life caught up in alcohol use. I watched him slowly washed away- work, family, home, cognition- all that he had been- and each and every role dissolved, until all that was left was his fragile humanity.

And this was beautiful. He would have given away his last penny. He would have shared his last sip and last drag of rolling tobacco.

And one day, we broke down his door because he had not been seen for a while. And what was left of him had become part of the bed he died in.

I was one of the few mourners at his funeral, and wrote this poem;

Brothers and sisters, life is short
A magical, miracle thing
That marches by- at first all shiny buttons
Then ragged worn, battle done.

So, in drab but polished municipality
I watch as a man is laid to rest
As his empty husk is processed- be it kindly
And hear a minister talk of faith and love
And speak some tender words to family
Who gather to say goodbye to a man they hardly knew

And I am grateful
Thankful that in this weary way
We humans still value dignity in death

For life is precious
Light flickers, then goes dark

Neville lived and now is gone
And father, lover, brother, son
Soldier, husband, drinking man-
Will be seen no more.

And as the blue velour curtains close
I think of the man entering eternity
Leaving few ripples, no disturbance
Needing no fanfare to his passing
Just sadness for a gentle soul
Time gone, now in everlasting

© Chris Goan

On Neville’s funeral 22.9.04

Dressing up light for the dancing…

Snow above Loch Eck, Argyll

Snow above Loch Eck, Argyll

The snow fell very early this year.

Last year, it was after Christmas when the first snow appeared on the mountains around us. We are close to the sea, so mostly it rains.

But last week we had a spell of cold clear weather, and snow kissed the mountain tops.

Winter can be cruel here. Not in the Good-King-Wenceslas kind of way- but nevertheless it can sap at the soul. The dark nights, the constant wind and rain, the wet cold that seems to soak into your bones.

The hillsides become unstable sources of land slips, the whole landscape goes dead-bracken brown and lifeless, the trees skeletal against grey skies and the pine forests become one huge dark moss sponge.

For those of melancholic disposition, such as myself, there is a beauty to these winters. The shafts of cold sunlight that periodically turn the dull browns to shining bronze. The empty wildness of the landscape. But I know I will come to long for the springtime.

I have friends who experience depression. For them, winter is a dangerous time, containing the possibility of the end of hope. The days deny the reality of the coming of soft days and renewal, and just leave a dark tunnel with no distant exit point.

For us all, there is a pressing need for to transcend the darkness. To find light. To put it on like a coat and walk in it.

To dwell in warmth and companionship, to see beauty and to celebrate it.

Some things make this more possible- and for me, one of these things is snow…

First snows

The first snows of winter bring blessing
To the hills and the mountains.
Yesterday bottle-brown
Now blue white crystal and pure

Soon rain will bring spoil and destruction
Turning the white mottled brown
Releasing the streams
Yesterday’s secret tears running down

But for now
My vision is draw to the highlands
Captured by sparkling sunlight
Shining but showing no shadow
Driving the darkness away

Dressing up light for the dancing and leading me on

Dressing up light for the dancing, then it’s gone.