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Month: December 2015

On Solstice Eve

On Solstice Eve

While I may not have chestnuts roasting on an open fire, I do have pine needles stewing in a pan of water which is still pretty darn festive if you ask me.  I’m always a bit slow to the party when it comes to yuletide cheer, I find December pretty exhausting truth be told; coupling darkness, busyness, pressure and running around does not make for a content Emmalina.

Around this time though, as Solstice Eve dawns damp and remarkably unsnowed upon, I find my cheer emerging.  We’ve done everything we need to do to prepare for this special season, shopping has been shopped (mostly), we have treats ready to be scoffed, we’ve seen friends and attended parties, we’ve laughed and made the most of it all.  Now it’s time to slow.

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I feel grateful to have lovely friends to share this season with, friends who are themselves a gift throughout the year.  I feel grateful for the friendships my boys enjoy, their delight in seeing their pals and in sharing their passions with them.  But mainly I’m grateful for hearth and home, for a place to come back to, my bolt hole of safety and security.  Now that we’ve spent a goodly portion of the last 2 weeks out and about, enjoying activities and time with friends, I’m ready to close the door and turn my focus inwards.

This year has been a busy one, I know I’ve said that before, but it really seems to have been non stop.  This year we made conscious decisions to scale back through the winter, giving ourselves some breathing space, some room for rest.  It feels like now is the time for that to begin, this Solstice Eve where the main tingle of magic is the simple fact of being able to stay at home and share an uneventful day with the boys.  We’ll be doing some chores to prepare for Nana’s arrival this evening (yay!), but mainly I would just like to snatch quiet time, peaceful moments that are meaningful only to ourselves really.

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The solstice means different things to different people, like any festival or celebration.  To me it symbolises the simple truth that people really don’t change that much, that we can stretch our fingers back through time and brush against all those that went before.  Like those who lived centuries ago we turn faces to the darkness and wish for the return of light.  Despite our knowledge, our technology, our advancement, our barbarism, we all turn our faces to that life giving ball and hope.  We all know, that we are no more than creatures of the earth, dependent on her for our survival, our life.  It’s easy to forget that, but I feel at my best when I am closer to the land and remembering that I am part of the fabric of it all.

So this morning, as I rather despondently cruised Facebook, I was inspired by a post by Amber of The Wild Garden, to switch off my screen and go out and do something less boring instead.  So I did.  With secateurs in hand I clipped branches from Cedar and Spruce trees that sit on our driveway, the scent of their needles wafting up at me and clearing my head.  I clipped fragrant Juniper and life affirming Yew from our garden, feeling connected to home as I did so.  Traditionally Yew is planted in sacred places, marking them as special; so we planted one here, in this place that is more special than any other to us, our home.

I snipped the branches and arranged them in vases to be distributed around the house (inspired by my artist friend), twisting them until they were just right, as beautiful as any flower arrangement.  The extra pieces went into a large pan of water, it’s now simmering away filling the house with the scent of fresh pine.  The air smells clean in here, it reminds me of walking through the woods with a carpet of needles under my feet, I feel that I’ve brought a little of the solstice inside for us to enjoy.

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Despite the house being warm I started a small fire this morning, onto it I threw the remaining branches of wood I’d brought in from outside.  As they burned they scented the smoke and turned the fire into something a little magical.  This afternoon I’ll read some solstice stories to the boys, sharing some thoughts about this special day.  Then we’ll clean and tidy and get things ready for Nana, she’s arriving tonight and she feels like the best solstice gift of all.

So here I am, finally able to stop and smell the pine a little.  Able to sit for some quiet moments and enjoy the thought of what’s to come.  Able to finally get in the festive groove and look forward to the family time we’ll share in the coming weeks.  Home cooked, home grown, home loved.  I know, I know how lucky I am.  Sometimes I get too tired to remember, too rushed, too sad or too worried; I never live up to my own standards, I don’t think I’ll ever really be done.  But when the peace comes, when the world slips away a little and I take the time to cook pine needles on the stove, to watch the flames licking around the wood in the fire, to listen to the boy’s laughter as they play some mad game in the basement, then I remember.  I remember and my heart is full.

Bright blessings to you all this Yuletide, wishing you a joyful and, above all, peaceful Solstice.

Season’s Turn

Season’s Turn

There is no doubt, now, that the balance of the year has indeed tipped.  While the customary snow of this northern clime has yet to show itself, the nights are dark and the mornings frosty.  Frosty is wildly preferable to snowy and, strangely, preferable to the milder weather we’ve experienced this November.  With mildness comes rain and with rain…mud.  I can’t say I’m sorry to have moved past ankle deep slop, in favour of firm and crunchy frost underfoot.

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Without too much effort we meet the sunrise each day, something I would never endeavour to accomplish in the summer.  The air is cold and fresh, increasingly I feel the need to wrap up against it, knowing that even a short delay can lead to feeling very cold indeed.  Anyone who did not know me well (or at all) might be forgiven for thinking I am the sort that likes to be up and at life, springing from beneath the duvet with bags of vim and slippers full of vigour.  They would be so wrong, so spectacularly wrong, that they would be in heavy contention for the Most Wrong You Can Be About Anything award and have full confidence of walking away with the prize.

In truth I’d happily remain in bed for around a week at a time, dining upon bed appropriate foods such as soft boiled eggs and jam tarts with tea.  I would wear bed jackets, bed socks and, not to put too fine a point on it, a sew in sleeping bag with a hood if I thought I could get away with it.  But life is not organized to accommodate by bed addiction and so, each day, I drag myself reluctantly from the joys of my memory foam mattress and head out into the world.  As I stand by the garage door I always give a little sigh to myself and a pause, a moment in which someone can cry to me “Emmalina!  There has been a mistake!  Please return to your bed, it turns out that chickens are fully able to look after themselves now.  Frankly we are all embarrassed for the misunderstanding.”  The voice has yet to come, but I pause anyway.

DSC_0306 DSC_0305  But, once I’ve trekked out to the chickens (now cosily snuggled with the Muscovy ducks we are keeping to breed from next year) the fresh air has done it’s work.  By the time I wander over to meet Stephen in the cow field I am awake enough to spend 10 minutes discussing the sex life of our pigs (I’m telling you, it never gets old) and chat about some farm related thoughts of one type or another.

The list of tasks is getting shorter now, as the cold weather has closed down the last of the garden, leaving me with garden related longing until spring.  The ducks went to slaughter last week, the pigs went a few days after that.  On Sunday the last of our piglets were sold and we took advantage of the solid ground and moved our Large Black Boar, Arthur to reunite with his lady love; unencumbered by mothering duties, she can now focus on the man in her life.  We’re hoping for a nice litter of little piggles in early spring.


The cow field is solid underfoot for the first time in months and there was frost on their coats this morning.  Our bottle fed calf (the little guy in the pic above) is on his last month of milk before he’s old enough to enjoy just hay along with the other cows.  It’s one of the last tasks that we’ll be ticking off before Christmas as we wind down into our winter schedule, where maintenance is the goal along with minimum outside time.  With the wood all cut and split, the freezers full and the major tasks of the season completed, we can finally take a breath and begin to enjoy some leisure time.

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When Stephen designed this house, he planned that the winter solstice sun would set in the window opposite the kitchen counter.  I spend a lot of my time in the kitchen and, as the nights draw in so early, the world outside can seem far away.  But then, as I’m cooking at the stove or popping trays in the oven, I’ll look up.  The scorching display across the afternoon sky will capture my whole attention and I’ll stop.  For a moment, or a few minutes, I’ll step away from what I’m doing and look.  Perhaps I’ll step out into the cool air and snap a picture or two of the luminous clouds, of the burning disc snagged for a brief second in the branches of a leafless tree.

In that moment, I’m grateful for this season and for this special time of year.  I’m grateful for the sun burned skies, the blackened night littered with stars, the frost coating and ice cover of morning.  Soon the snow will come, turning the world monochrome until the spring reclaims it.  For now, we enjoy this chance to pause and, if we’re lucky, to rest a little.