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)



  1. Bonjour Siobhan: je ne dis rien sur l'hiver: dirait le paysan, j'ai l'oeil bleu comme les yeux noirs sur la neige, mes tempes se grisent et je me voûte étoilé, m'étiolant; votre texte en son entier est un poème épique avec le chant qui l'accompagne. j'aime beaucoup.

  2. Merci beaucoup Thige! Je ne comprends pas votre commentaire - 'l'oeil bleu'... ou 'je me voute étoilé, m'étiolant...'?? Mais il semble poétique! Avez-vous la neige en hiver? La campagne transforme avec la neige, comme le chant ici dans un sens.

  3. bonsoir Siobhan, oui il neige parfois en Camargue; par ici c'est la grande plaine plus basse que la mer et le sel devient bleu dans les neiges du soir. :-)

    1. Bonjour Thige, ah, je comprends maintenant merci! Comme c'est beau!


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