In The Bleak Midwinter

Midwinter has descended. Darkness falls so early and cold and ice refuse to clear. Next week sees the winter solstice, then Christmas. How do you see winter and darkness? Do they feel to you dismal, hopeless, a struggle? Or do you see them as a chance to recharge?

Photo by Pixabay on

Many of us see winter and darkness as a negative, something to be endured, waiting for longer and lighter days. I do count down to the winter solstice eaxh year. I know people who feel restless and trapped on these dark evenings, shut inside so early. Stilling this restlessness isn’t easy, although music can help if the darkness feels too hushed and quiet. Darkness is depressing and limiting, and saps energy, particularly if it is cold as well. Evenindoor hobbies like painting or craft are less possile in artificial light. And obviously darkness can feel menacing and can aid and abet crime. Some peopl efear darkness or have a specific phobia of night time or the dark. Yet others feel more at ease in the darkness – some people who have agoraphobia find going out after dark more possible.

Traditionally, darkness – of winter or of night – is seen as a time of rest, of renewal, of withdrawal even from the world. In winter nature itself rests, slows, hibernates. Little grows.

Rest and renewal in nature could transfer to us too. Some do see winter as a time to recharhe, to do less, to relax And some finds this really boosts wellbeing, as they feel restored. Others rebel. Hibernating feels dreary, frustratig, blank. Particularly this year with the high cost of living and fuel, relaxing ism’t so easy when you;re shivering in three jerseys.

Falling within a few days of the winter solstice, Christmas is all about light in the darkness. It was the light of a star which led the Three Kings to the stable where Jesus lay, the Light of the World. Many of us mark Christmas with lights, sparkling in all different colours from our houses and public spaces, defiant in the darkness. Candles and Christingles shine bright. So too the sound of carol singing or of church bells emerging out of the darkness is powerful. With lights and music, the night comes alive.

And night time is always alive. Many creatures depend on darkness, and are mainly or only seen or heard at night – owls, small mammals, insects. Some people like night walking, feeling part of this unknown world, as their eyes gradually adjust to the dark and they hear or glimpse nature astir all around them. I’d rather walk by day! But I do like looking at the night sky, at the stars or the shadows cast by moonlight, or hearing an owl call outside and imagining what other creatures may be on the move, maybe a mole or a badger. There’s real beauty in darkness, it can feel dramatic and vast. Darkness’s mystery can be unsettling but also exciting.

Winter itself is less dormant than it looks. There’s still a lot to see. If possible, look out for the red stems of dogwood, for berries on cotoneaster or holly, for ivy growing along tree trunks, for plant seedheads and for tiny buds on tree twigs. And once the solstice has come and gone and earth begins – slowly – to turn back to the light, more will change.

Are winter and darkness positives or negatives for you? I would really like to hear any thoughts in Medley’s Facebook group Thank you.

Published by medleyisobel

My name is Isobel and I run Medley, an online initiative sharing art, nature and music for health and wellbeing.

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