art : nature : words
Indoor and Outdoor Art Therapist
Indoor and Outdoor Art Therapist
The Gifts of Winter
By December the majority of leaves have fallen away from our trees. Stand in woodland at this time of year and the heavens have been opened to our upward gaze. We peer up through swaying branches, the wind driving flocks of tumbling clouds. Indeed, deciduous trees weather storms and Winter gales that much better through not having the miniature sails that make up a full canopy. Looking at the exposed limbs and backbones of trees in December we are more keenly aware of the corresponding root structure anchored within the ground. Trees in December bring a timely reminder of our vulnerability and also our resilience.
In a moment the December landscape can vacillate between muted, ethereal shades and harsher blocks of black and white. The mountain hare and ptarmigan make use of this monotonous landscape, their winter coats a brilliant camouflage. By December the light has faded from the land, the sky and from the leaf litter around our feet. We are all too keenly aware of the Sun’s absence, drowsily emerging to hover low in the sky, ready to dip back into the Earth’s embrace at the earliest opportunity.
However, There are splashes of colour in Winter. On occasion, we are treated to the pink glow of a morning sunrise or the brilliance of golden sunsets. Frosty mornings, reveal fields and hedges decorated with white icing shining beneath vivid blue skies. These days are to be cherished as they are achingly short. We still have the ever greens of Yew and Holly, there berries blood-red reminders of that which still courses through us all despite our numb extremities. We are blessed by the Robins determination to sing throughout Winter (one of the few birds that do), its vibrant breast puffed out in defiance of the cold.
Stark and brittle teasels provide food for goldfinches, who descend en-masse in 'charms' to feed on the seeds hidden deep within the prickly heads. These skittish birds, with their reddened faces twitter and fuss from hedgerow to hedgerow. On moorland, the prickly gorse may still bare its bright yellow flowers even in December.
For me, there is nothing so wonderful as to sit upon a hill in December and watch large grey clouds amble across the sky. At glorious moments shafts of golden light descend from the heavens to illuminate some favoured patch of ground, inspiring fantasies of the light marking some auspicious moment of holy intervention. Even inside our houses, divine sunlight is caught for a little while longer in our candles and festive decorations. Many deities are purported to have been born around the Winter solstice, for at this moment there is only one, inevitable way to go in the circle of life - upwards!
For many, Christmas brings many expectations – not least the image of blissful family unity. It can also be a painful reminder of the life we wished we could have - the aching gap between what we wanted and that which we actually received. The parents that were never there for us or the children that disappointed us with their apparent indifference. The pressures of being cooped-up together can bring these resentments to the surface. We soon become all too aware of our differences as the bonhomie is soon discarded like torn gift wrapping. The rub and chaff of relationships can become akin to the grate and creek of branches against each other in icy, northern winds.
Perhaps it would be better to bestow gifts on each other in the form of compassionate acts of acceptance and forgiveness rather than the latest computer game or fashion accessory. I would offer that the festive period can also be a time to consciously count our blessings even if at first they are not immediately apparent. The process of deliberately recounting life’s gifts can do wonders to engender a better frame of mind.
Art Making: The turning wheel
Creating circles from natural materials at this time of year is wonderful way of reminding ourselves that we are at the lowest point of the great turning just before the upward rotation begins. Once you have created your circle, fill it with objects – or even candles – that represent all that you are grateful for. Sit for a moment, breathe in the stillness as you enjoy all the gifts that nature bestows on all of us.
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Simon Wodward, Indoor and Outdoor Art Therapist