Friday, 21 December 2012

Solstice Greetings

Today is the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year, the day when the sun stands still before reversing direction and coming back to us (in the Northern hemisphere). The returning of the light. 

At its core, the Christmas season celebrates this natural phenomenon and all that it represents, namely, the light overcoming darkness.  The Solstice has been acknowledged for millennia, back when our ancient ancestors lit fires to keep the darkest part of the year at bay. Now every winter celebration, be it Christmas, Hanukkah or Diwali, uses light or lights as its symbolism. 

Because it's pretty powerful symbolism. And as such, a very special time of year.

For me, it feels different in the days around the Solstice. Ever notice how the days seem almost coated in silver at this time of the year? Like all along, we've had dull grey miserable days, but now suddenly, between the frost and the cold (or maybe the expectation and general all round bonhomie) they've taken on a more luminous glow - a silver lining so to speak (not to mention a golden glow radiating off people.)

And it is in our own light, and our own acknowledgement of the light I suppose, that the real magic of the season ignites its spark. 

Below, are some poems I thought represent the Solstice, that is, the welcoming back of the light, in all its forms.  (Now I know I have a whole other blog for this - A Poem a Day - 
but I just couldn't resist posting some poems here in honour of the season). 

Enjoy the holiday season! Lots of light to you!




In Winter's House - Jane Draycott

In winter's house there's a room
that's pale and still as mist in a field
while outside in the street every gate's shut firm,
every face as cold as steel.

In winter's house there's a bed
that is spread with frost and feathers, that gleams
in the half-light like rain in a disused yard
or a pearl in a choked-up stream.

In winter's house there's a child
asleep in a dream of light that grows out
of the dark, a flame you can hold in your hand
like a flower or a torch on the street.

In winter's house there's a tale
that's told of a great chandelier in a garden,
of fire that catches and travels for miles,
of all gates and windows wide open.

In winter's house there's a flame  
being dreamt by a child in the night,  
in the small quiet house at the turn in the lane  
where the darkness gives way to light.


Lines for Winter - Mark Strand

  for Ros Krauss

Tell yourself
as it gets cold and gray falls from the air
that you will go on
walking, hearing
the same tune no matter where
you find yourself—
inside the dome of dark
or under the cracking white
of the moon's gaze in a valley of snow.
Tonight as it gets cold
tell yourself
what you know which is nothing
but the tune your bones play
as you keep going. And you will be able
for once to lie down under the small fire
of winter stars.
And if it happens that you cannot
go on or turn back
and you find yourself
where you will be at the end,
tell yourself
in that final flowing of cold through your limbs
that you love what you are. 

Starlings in Winter - Mary Oliver

Chunky and noisy,
but with stars in their black feathers,
they spring from the telephone wire
and instantly

they are acrobats
in the freezing wind.
And now, in the theater of air,
they swing over buildings,

dipping and rising;
they float like one stippled star
that opens,
becomes for a moment fragmented,

then closes again;
and you watch
and you try
but you simply can't imagine

how they do it
with no articulated instruction, no pause,
only the silent confirmation
that they are this notable thing,

this wheel of many parts, that can rise and spin
over and over again,
full of gorgeous life.
Ah, world, what lessons you prepare for us,

even in the leafless winter,
even in the ashy city.
I am thinking now
of grief, and of getting past it;

I feel my boots
trying to leave the ground,
I feel my heart
pumping hard, I want

to think again of dangerous and noble things.
I want to be light and frolicsome.
I want to be improbable beautiful and afraid of nothing,
as though I had wings. 

Monday, 17 December 2012

12 Poems of Christmas...

Just to let you know I am posting Christmas poems daily all this week  (and beyond...) on my poetry blog: A Poem A Day

There'll be some famous Christmas poems, some old ones and some new ones, funny ones and fabulous ones, meaningful odes, comic limericks and magical musings; from poets such as: Carol Ann Duffy, EE Cummings, TS Eliot, Wendy Cope, UA Fanthorpe, John Agard, Mary Oliver, Alice Oswald and WH Auden. 

Poetry always comes out and about at Christmastime. As well as the odd reading of a Christmas poem or two, it's in the carols we sing, the cards we write, the films we watch and most importantly, the things we feel. Magic, yep, that's it; that special twinkly atmosphere that enfolds us. That's poetry's raison d'etre: to capture all those indescribable lovely feelings.

So pop on over for the Christmas blog equivalent of mulled wine and a mince pie! :) There's a poem for you in there I'm sure of it!  And please feel free to share suggestions of your favourite Christmas poems (or carols, or moments, or just things for that matter...!), comments, or just your welcomed presence. :) 

Seasons Greetings! 

~ Siobhán

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Sunday Morning Musing: The Practice of Art

Yes, of course it is. And while in the process of growing your soul, you make a life, and a real 'living.'

~ Siobhán

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Winter Warmings

'Ice Floes, Misty Morning' - Claude Monet

Everyone has a favourite season. I'm not one for winter (it's spring I love - 'winter is in my head, but eternal spring is in my heart' ~ Victor Hugo) - what with all the cold, the dark, the claustrophobic indoor living. But I have to give it its dues. There are a few things that I like: sitting by the fire, reading books, snow and the lore that accompanies the season: magic and the many metaphors of survival, transformation and revelation. 

Winter is the season of darkness, but is strangely, full of light. It's the time when the sun is away, but instead we have firelight, Christmas lights and glorious sunsets. It's recognised in metaphor as a time of hardship, a testing trial, but also, one in which strength can be recognised, triumph can occur over adversity, where the light of hope can kindle in darkness, -'In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.' ~ Albert Camus

Winter light is one good characteristic of the season. Look at the deep blue skies at dusk. Yes, before the blackness sets in, there is blue, a wonderful royal blue, aglow, as deep as any ocean and the perfect background for stars. And just look at the stars - aren't they whiter and brighter now than in summer? And the moon, like a white mirrorball, set alight, frosty bright. And winter sunsets have the most varied range of colours than any other seasonal ones - a wealth of reds and pinks and purples (the kind that'll have you racing out with your camera trying to get a pic! - see opposite...) Talk about vibrant! It seems these are the intense primary colours of the sky, not the pastel ones of fairer weather.

And then there's the light, late afternoon, just before sundown. Is it because there's a lack of light in days that when it does show itself, it looks so majestic, so terrific and terrifying? I was stopped in my tracks by it today, a golden blaze on the horizon, streaming through the grey clouds and lighting them silver. Amazing. (See photos below) Is it because it is such a contrast to the dull of the days? And then more appreciated and alchemic. Whatever it is, it is glorious. Maybe in these last few days before the Solstice, it plays out some spectacular light shows for us? And when on the subject of light - how could I not mention the magical Northern Lights - the star attraction of the season. But I'd need a whole other post to delve into the beauty of them!

I don't love winter. Not even close. I used to hate it. But now, I've become more accomodating to it. I've seen some of its treasures and have saluted them. 

I like the intimacy of it, the quiet, the scope for solitude and introspection - 'There is a privacy about it which no other season gives you.... In spring, summer and fall people sort of have an open season on each other; only in the winter, in the country, can you have longer, quiet stretches when you can savor belonging to yourself.'  ~Ruth Stout. Savour belonging to yourself, yes that's it. A hibernating of a kind.

It's definitely a more sombre season. Quiet. Discerning. Things become more visible in its clear frosty palette, 'The color of springtime is in the flowers; the color of winter is in the imagination.' ~Terri Guillemets. Things are as they are. And while waiting for it to pass, sometimes you can see the necessity of it. And the beauty. 

For there definitely is beauty in it. Like there is beauty in tragedy or melancholy, or deep silence. It's there. As tentative as a shimmering iced lake or cool blue arctic sky or frost on a window. It's a fragile beauty. Hanging in the balance of acute observation.

Anyway, some more winter  musings below, including winter reads, and some photos I shot over the past few days. I always used to see winter as grey and monotone - but really it's a patchwork of cool colours - blues and greys and whites and all kinds of silver linings - the colours of stillness and quietness, and gentle epiphanies perhaps. 

What's your favourite thing about winter? 

~ Siobhán 


'and saw the light hurl down 
like hammers flung by the sun 
to light-stun me, batter  
the water to pewter,  
everything dream or myth', - Carol Ann Duffy, 'Ballynahinch'

'Sometimes our fate resembles a fruit tree in winter. Who would think that those branches would turn green again and bloom, but we hope it, we know it.' ~ Goethe


'What fire could ever equal the sunshine of a winter's day?' ~ Henry David Thoreau

'I please myself with the graces of the winter scenery, and believe that we are as much touched by it as by the genial influences of summer.' ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

'In a way winter is the real spring, the time when the inner things happen, the resurge of nature.' - Edna O' Brien

This is a beautiful collection of short stories and musings by Finnish writer, Tove Jansson. 'A Winter Book is full ofstories that make art of life ad celebrate the life of art,' Ali Smith says in her introduction to the book. 

The stories are fine and slight, but full of the wonders of the imagination and the Nordic landscape. A perfect winter read by the fireside! 

(You can read more here)

This looks so cool - the new book from The New Yorker columnist Adam Gopnik consists of essays on the season, exploring artists and writers views on winter, telling the story of winter in five parts: Romantic Winter, Radical Winter, Recuperative Winter, Recreational Winter, and Remembering Winter.
'If I have to count the very few serene moments in an unserene life, they would all be winter moments...' - Adam Gopnik
(You can read more here)

Irish writer Patricia Scanlon shares her favourite poems, childhood recollections and personal stories that have inspired her and her ruminations on why winter is so beloved to her. It'll warm your heart on a cold winter's evening! (Accompanied by lovely illustrations)

 (You can read more here)


Sunday, 2 December 2012

Liebster Blog Award

Thank you very much to Ruby for nominating me for the Liebster Blog Award - it's pretty cool to get a nomination  (shucks) - thanks!

I must admit I've never heard of Liebster before, but so glad I have now (just google it and see the wealth and warmth of blog nominees). Apparently liebster is German for 'like' and the award consists not of an actual award but of good words -  bloggers acknowledging one another across the blogosphere as a formal way of saying 'hey, I really like your blog, good work, keep it up!' - a compliment of a kind, a way of encouraging and introducing new bloggers and blogs. 

And I'm all for sharing the blogger love! So many people writing great blog posts and not getting any acknowledgement! This award seems like a  little 'kudos' to all bloggers I suppose... 

So in that case, I'll give it a go. (Even though I prefer to be asking the questions rather than answering them! I don't like to be too personal in what I'm writing, but I suppose, everything we write reveals a little of ourselves anyway....)

*Rules for Liebster 
 Write a post about the Liebster blog award including to:
-Thank the person who nominated you and mention them in your blog (with link to theirs)
-List 11 things about yourself
-Answer the 11 questions posed by the person who nominated you
-Create 11 questions for your nominees (you can nominate whomever you choose (up to 5 people I've read in some posts, others say 11) - just make sure they have less than 200 followers) Oh but you can't nominate the person who nominated you.
-Don't forget to inform your nominees!

So here goes. Right, ahem - 11 Things About Me:
(Hmmm, just randomly, off the top of my head - )

1. I'm a writer. (But not everyone knows this, I shy away from telling most people...)
2. I don't act my age (not even close!) 
3. I believe in magic. 
4. I'm an avid reader and adore books.
5. I'm a die-hard idealist and won't cave in to settling for anything less than the best!
6. I love coffee.
7. I want to be a professional writer, more than anything else in the world. 
8. Well - apart from living in Paris! - I'm an utter Francophile
9. I'm quite lazy (and most definitely not a morning person! See point 6...)
10. My favourite thing to do in the whole wide world is to write.
11. I'm an out-and-out dreamer, by default. 

11 Questions - (from Ruby)

1. What's  the first thing you do when you wake up in the morning?
Hmm, try and adjust to reality! The very first thing - usually go over the ideas in my head for writing that day.
2. What starsign are you?
I'm an Aries, blatantly so! - headstrong, feisty, independent and with a short temper!
3. When did you start blogging?
Last year - May 2011, I finally took the leap into cyper-space.
4. If you could only eat one food for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Chocolate, without a doubt.
5. What 3 things would you bring to a desert island?
A book of poetry (to keep me calm), a notebook with pen (to keep me sane and me), and an iPod (to keep me happy and in tune ;) Then I'd be quite content (well, considering, there's an adequate food supply nearby and shelter et al...!)
6. Have you ever been in love?
Yes. I'm an ultimate Romantic and fall in love all the time, even against my better judgement.
7. What is your party trick?
I don't have one! I'm more of a wallflower than the life of the party...
8. Who is your hero?
I don't really have a hero per se... I have lots of heroes I suppose, from characters in books to strangers in real life. I really look up to and admire free-spirits - people who do their own thing regardless of society's expectations and who aren't afraid to live their life fully - people who are brave, in many different ways.
9. What actress would play you in a movie about your life?
Gosh - it'd be a pretty boring movie! I honestly don't know... It'd have to be someone quirky and not afraid to look uncoiffed most of the time!
10. Do you prefer giving or receiving gifts? 
Giving. I love giving people gifts - from mix CDs to books to all kinds of nick-nacks. Mostly because I like introducing people to things that I like! and things I think they would like too.
11. What is your motto?
Follow your bliss, chase  your dreams, believe in  beauty and magic along the way!

I would like to nominate (in no particular order):
*Cheryl ~  Strange Little Pearls - who writes so beautifully on every topic
*Juliette ~ It Starts at the Beginning - who regales us with her hilarious & dramatic stories
*Mary ~  Creative Thinking, Creative Doing - who gives great advice on the creative process, writing and art!
*Esther ~ Esther Rivero - who presents beautiful and poetic musings on life, love and art

Here are my 11 questions:
1. Why do you write/blog?
2. What's your favourite thing about writing/blogging?
3. What's your greatest ambition?
4. What's your greatest dream?
5. What's your all-time favourite book?
6. What's your favourite thing in the world to do?
7. Describe yourself in 3 words...? (or less!)
8. What's your ultimate creative indulgence?
9. Your motto on life?
10. What's the most important thing in your life?
11. What's your best characteristic? 

Feel free to partake guys, and to all bloggers reading - keep up the good work! 

~ Siobhán