ACCEPTING THE ARRIVAL OF WINTER
It was 26 November 2022, 11 a.m. I was at the Gloucester end of the Gloucester-Sharpness canal. I found myself accepting the arrival of winter. I was observing three cygnets, now without their parents but still keeping company with each other. The underlying temperature was around 7 C (44.6 F) and good for walking, But I was feeling the pinch of a cold wind. In memory I am feeling it now. The water and sky looked grey. The trees were starting to feel skeletal, whilst still retaining some leaves. My lingering sense of autumn had finally drained away.
To accept winter’s arrival in the presence of swans felt numinous. Swans are otherworldly birds in Celtic tradition. The three together, not yet in their full adult plumage, seemed auspicious. They suggested coming opportunities for creativity, love and celebration. Winter can be a preparation for renewal, both as season and as state of mind. My acceptance goes with a faith in winter’s regenerative darkness, and the riches this can bring.
Up here in Scotland the seasons often feel very out of sync to most of UK. And then earlier this week a Scottish woman was visiting here from the Hebrides and gave me this wonderful local wisdom: winter arrives with the first frost – spring with the first primrose – summer with the first midge and autumn with the first devil’s bit scabious. This is wonderful indigenous thinking I conclude. We could all adopt similar wherever we are – centralism is for capitalism… I look forward to our visiting swans in the area soon from the north the Whoopers – but none will come to our local Loch Sunart – and there is a legend that tells why of a viking prince who shot his love who was bewitched as a swan…
I agree. The experience of winter is very local. Is there to your knowledge an available written version of the legend you mentioned?
Here’s a recent retelling https://folklorescotland.com/the-swan-of-loch-sunart/
Another popular version is by George McPherson and his Tales from the aisle of Skye – but it’s my local Loch Sunart that claims the tale as it’s own – just above my garden is a viking burial (Scandinavian Prince possibly) called Borrodail’s Grave and on the peninsula here Ardnamurchan we have the only mainland viking boat burial at Swordle.
Many thanks – I really appreciate the reference. I didn’t realise that there was so much material evidence, in your region, of the Scandinavian contribution to its Norse-Gaelic culture.
I love the way you give words to the atmosphere of the coming of winter. There is such beauty in all those details. I can really relate to them.
Hi…as I’ve got older my feelings towards winter and the cold weather have become more ambivalent, my body finds it difficult to tolerate the cold and damp and the winds make me breathless. However, I acknowledge the positive aspects of winter…I’ve tried to express this in a song that I wrote…the lyrics are…
Chorus…The sun is decreasing, the year moves along, in just a few weeks, the winter will come.
The days will grow shorter, the nights dark and long; my thoughts then to gather and place in this song.
V1…Winter’s a time when the north winds do blow;
And I grieve for the things that I never will know.
My mind becomes sluggish, my face is downcast;
Attention fixed firmly on things that are passed
V2…In darkness the Spirit continues to flow,
As the seed in the ground will continue to grow.
Why must I be anxious and fear for the worst,
The pathways of nature should leave me well-versed
V3…From Samhain to lmbolc we grant ourselves rest;
From the depths of her being the goddess knows best.
It’s time to look inwards, a time to review
The things that have happened, our life to renew
V4…When February comes, as surely it will;
The wheel keeps on turning, it never stays still.
When Springtime returns and the oak king re-crowned;
My soul will give birth to the truths that I’ve found.
Thanks for your comment. I love your song.