The year’s midnight

The autumn show is over and at the midwinter solstice we move into the true darkness of winter.  The trees appear barren.  Only the ash provides a sense of colour, its clusters of seed pods like bronze parcels amid the branches.  The fallen leaves are still plentiful in patches on the ground, but they are no longer crispy, forming instead a damp, rotting mulch.  The grass seems greener, having been hidden by leaves for so  long, but the ground is sodden and muddy.  As yet, there has been only a single, short snowstorm that, once over, left no signs that it had ever arrived.  Our weather has been a patchwork of rain storms, tidal surges, gales and some milder days.  But now, the reward of getting up before dawn is to see the glitter of frost on the grass and to feel it crisp beneath your feet.

The poet John Donne called the solstice the year’s midnight.  This is darkness proper, when the flaming leaves no longer light the season and the trees are desolate silhouettes against the lowering skies.  This, I feel, is a different kind of darkness to that of autumn.  The autumn darkness is rich, tender and expectant.  The winter darkness, once the solstice and the festivities of the season are over, can be bleak, cold and hollow.  It will be a long time until we feel the energy of spring.  But out of darkness come hope, light and dreams.  At the solstice, the night is the longest of the year, but at dawn, the sun will be reborn and the days will become longer.

There is rich symbolism at this time of year.  The old pagan symbols merge with the Christian ones and those that came much later, so that it can be difficult to see where one ends and another begins.  Whatever your beliefs, there is a real magic in the wealth of symbols and stories that span the season.  And all of them, at heart, celebrate similar themes: the light, hope and benevolence emerging from the darkness.  Trees hung with offerings are an ancient representation of the gifts and wishes of the season.  The glitter of tinsel, candles and fairy lights proclaim the rebirth of the light.  Evergreens brought across the threshold affirm our hope that life is still with us.  Feasting and festivities give us comfort against the cold and the gloom.


I have always revelled in the creativity of the season.  In my childhood, before the Internet, DVDs and satellite TV, the holidays were a time full of creative pursuits.  There would be new books and music received as gifts, new movies premiered on the TV, new television shows made for Christmas.  But there was also time – unbroken time to create and to enjoy the creations of others.  For me, the ease of downloading a book or song, of buying a DVD, has taken away some of the excitement once associated with this time of year, while the responsibilities of the season can prevent us absorbing its magic.


If you’re feeling harried by the demands of the season and feel that it leaves little space for you to focus on your creativity, the solstice is a good time to pause.  The long hours of darkness on that night provide ample time for reflection on how your creativity will be reborn.  Use the night to midwife a fresh creative spirit: this time of birth is an optimal moment – anything is possible.  Your creative life begins anew – how will it be different this year?  What dreams did you dream in the autumn darkness that you can now give birth to and guide, like children, to their full potential?

After the reflection of the long night, you could go out and greet the dawn.  The sunrise after the longest night is one of the gifts of the year, but there will be other gifts you have within you to help you create – those you were born with, those you have earned through experience.  This is a time when we give to others, but consider also what you can give to yourself to ensure your creative spirit is nurtured throughout the year.

29 thoughts on “The year’s midnight

  1. Your Christmas tree looks great Andrea! Oh Christmas in the snow – there’ s nothing like it! I hope you get a white one this year. It was 40 degrees here yesterday – quite the opposite! It’s taken me many years to get used to but I’m finally getting there. Have a great day and I hope Santa brings you a nice surprise 😉


    • Thanks Gemma. No snow as yet – we did have some sleet earlier today but nothing that lasted – we now have gales, just been for a great walk by the coast and got the cobwebs blown away. I think I’d find it really hard to get used to a hot Christmas! Have a great time Gemma.


  2. Your writing is beautiful, poetic, and inspirational. I do appreciate that you weave in facts as you create with words. You weave beauty and magic, combining a creative mind with lovely thoughts. I am “loving” your work!


  3. I really do think that my creative spirit is in need of some kindling so if this is the time to do it then I shall curl up in the darkness and wait for it to happen. I look forward to the longer days – I am a summer spirit, I think, even though I’m a March birthday. More daylight for me is a good thing; snuggling inside by the fire with the cold wind and rain raging outside holds no thrill for me, neither does the snow, except for the first fall of the season – before it has been trampled to an inconvenient slush. So, festivities aside, I shall greet the New Year with hope – hope of longer, lighter days filled with sunshine. Creativity will burgeon again.
    Merry Christmas Andrea, and thanks for your inspiring blog.


  4. I think I’ll use this evening to focus on my novel rebuild and how I can complete it in this upcoming year. I’d like 2014 to be a better year for writing, and the only way to ensure that is to redouble my concentration and efforts toward that goal.

    It’s a bit difficult to think of this as the winter solstice, though, when we’re having record-breaking warm temperatures!


    • Hope you had a fruitful solstice JM and came out if it with lots of inspiration and ideas for the writing year to come. You may not feel it, but I’ve certainly enjoyed a wide variety of great writing from you in the past year.


  5. I know what you mean about the excitement of gifts you can hold in your hands, as against all those electronic downloads. I’m still resisting the whole thing of ebooks, although wouldn’t complain if my book came out in both electronic and hard copy.

    That’s a lovely post. I’m always interested in how the early Christians hijacked pagan symbols and festivals, in order to up the number of converts they made. If the pagans thought they could still party in style, what did they care which religion they followed?


    • Thanks Sarah – yes it’s really interesting to follow the history of how symbols and festivals have been changed over time – I think there’s magic in the symbols of all beliefs, but the pagan ones are those that have always sung for me.
      I haven’t resisted the ebooks! What I love about it is the fact I can get a book quickly when I hear about it, but it’s definitely not the same as holding a book in your hand – I tend to buy the print versions of my favourite authors and I have started borrowing from the library again (I’ve been a terrible example of a person who works in libraries by not borrowing from them!)


      • Guess what present I got for Christmas. Hee,hee, hee. It seems that I now have the option of ebooks, which means at least I can read some of my friends’ books that are only published in ebook format.

        I heard that more and more publishers are testing out their new authors by seeing how their novels go in ebook format first. If sales go well, then the book will come out in print. If not, the author will probably be dumped, re future books.


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