Almanac: A peaceful start to the new year, fallen branches and a priceless treasure

The seasons turn, a new year arrives.

My Christmas gift was a traveller’s journal which is why my story begins here. I carried it around in my backpack and to and fro between my desk and bedside table for weeks before beginning to use it. Sometimes getting started is the hardest part.

We were living solely on the last of our savings at the time, because of the pandemic stopping our work. Due to this our Christmas tree was created from fallen branches gathered from the local woodland. The scent of pine still filled the room, just as before, except this time there was also a meaningful, family story linked to our little “tree”. After New Year’s we used the foraged twigs to create a bug hotel in the nature corner of our garden.

This year we all want to do the same again, only more so. I am already looking out for where the holly grows in the little woodland so that we can decorate the door frames and bookshelves, and create a homemade wreath for the front door.

Adjusting our sleep/wake times meant that each morning we got to greet the dawn. I started to measure time in the early hours by watching the bright golden winter sunrise creep across the frosted glass of the window. Later, I would stop wearing a watch around the house altogether.

The birches kept their final leaves into late December, creating a rare beautiful effect during the golden hour at dusk each day. I can only see a small part of this tree from my desk window, so as soon as the sun dips low enough to shine through the branches, I know to take a walk towards the southern footpaths for the full view.

This moment at dusk, where I pause work and take a quick walk, starts to herald teatime because when I get back from the cold, the kettle goes on and soup is warmed on the hob. I am already re-aligning my days to the nature around me, although I am not consciously aware of it just yet.

By early January the fields become almost impassable, the little woodland equally so. As soon as the temperature drops and the sun clouds over, our boots can go three foot or more into the mud in places. It will be April before the fields are fully walkable again. As long as we keep close to the blackberry hedgerow in the top field, we can at least still enjoy the wide winter skies.

Here is my favourite photograph from Christmas and New Year 2020: When you are only two and a plastic emerald ring falls out of a cracker and you cannot believe that such a priceless token can be yours.

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A Week in Books: Star gazing, poetry and Advent begins

On a Sunday evening, I like to clear the shelf next to my desk, in preparation for the week ahead. There will always be a pile of books that have accumulated beside me. These will include stories my daughter has brought over for me to read to her and those that I have quickly grabbed to find a quotation, or check an ingredient for a recipe. There might be a seasonal book or two where I have looked up a flower name or gardening wisdom.

I enjoy the moment when I scoop them up and shelve them again, the titles on the spines evoke a diary of the days just passed:  A Week in Books.

I Am The Seed That Grew: A Nature Poem for Every day of the Year by The National Trust

The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2020 by Lia Leendertz

This week’s reading reflects a change in the seasons. As winter begins, our daily poetry book, I Am The Seed That Grew, encourages us to listen to the sounds of the night-time garden and watch the “silent moon.”

My Almanac also reminds us that the “Full Cold Moon is the highest and brightest of the year.”

Every evening I look skywards as November draws to a close. After days of fog and cloud cover, one crisp and clear evening, the shining moon’s reflection is caught in our tiny garden stream. A moment of perfect stillness.

Dancing by the Light of the Moon: How poetry can transform your memory and change your life by Gyles Brandreth

I have been browsing all year through this beautiful poetry collection curated by Gyles Brandreth. Now though, I am going to spend the colder months reading it from start to finish and learning the poetry off-by-heart as I go. I wonder; can I learn over 250 poems by this time next year? Brandreth starts us off with a quick and fun Tom Stoppard poem.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte

Autumn seems to me the perfect month to be wandering the moors with Catherine and Heathcliff. My copy of the book is from my childhood and was later covered in notes during my college and university years.

As I read through this much-loved book for close on the 40th time, I have been sketching my favourite scenes. Here is my draft of Catherine’s wooden bed and the snowy tree beyond the window that scratches at the glass one stormy night.

Shadow and Light: A Journey into Advent by Tsh Oxenreider

A rare new book purchase for me was “Shadow and Light”. Each day of Advent brings a reading, a reflective question, a suggested piece of seasonal music to listen to and an artwork to contemplate. I was drawn to the gentle, contemplative lead-in to Christmas Day and beyond, especially after such a difficult year of uncertainty. Rather than reading this at night, because we are very early risers, we have been lighting a candle and listening to the recommended music as day breaks.

It is now Sunday evening and time to gather up all of the books and replace them on the shelves, whilst wondering what the next week will bring.

I hope that you have a calm and peaceful Advent time wherever you are in the world.

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I’ve linked below to where you can buy the items mentioned in my post from Amazon. If you click on the picture and buy the item I will get a small commission to help support my art.

National Trust: I Am the Seed That Grew the Tree: A Nature Poem for Every Day of the Year (Poetry Collections)

The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2020

The Almanac: A Seasonal Guide to 2021

Wuthering Heights

Dancing By The Light of The Moon: Over 250 poems to read, relish and recite

Shadow and Light: A Journey into Advent