Seeking light

The lights have become a ritual of the quiet hours. Moving around the house at dawn-break, lighting the Christmas trees and turning on strings of fairy lights. And last thing at night, hours after sunset, settling the house into darkness. It is a ritual I find comforting. I am seeking light in the darkest days of the year. I enjoy the Christmas trees in people’s windows. I watch the bloom of sunrise and the sweep of sunset.

Winter hasn’t settled yet. One morning I wake to roofs stippled in frost. The grass in the park is moulded into frozen spikes, mosses have become miniature winter forests and leaves are sugared with ice. Freezing fog cloaks the river in a soft white haze. The last leaves shiver from the trees, crackling as they hit frozen ground. I hear a loud, unfamiliar cheep in the stripped poplar. The woodpecker is back. I haven’t seen him since spring, when his drumming filled the air. Now he circles the boughs of the poplar, foraging for food.

The frost trails milder but more turbulent air behind it. On another morning, we are blown to the dene by a boisterous wind that feels as though it has a storm within it. There is a watery yellow line on the horizon and the clouds are like layers of broiling waves that obscure the light. The sky is on the edge of rain. A pair of wind turbine foundations docked at the marina rise amid tree skeletons. Most of the trees are bare now. White dead nettle and tiny new cleavers push through fallen leaves. The glossy-leaved holly has shiny berries.

I find myself looking for light in the colours that remain. I look for it in the fresh green of ivy, swaddling the trunks of alders. In the bright yellow of Mahonia blossoms and the more muted bones of ivy flowers. In the yellow-green of willows kissing the pond. Most of the ducks are resting today, but the black-headed gulls squabble, scream and soar on the currents. Suddenly the sun breaks through the clouds. Immediately the landscape changes. Covered in golden light, colours become more vivid, shadows appear and lengthen. Later, the sky will darken and rain will come.

Winter returns later in the week, as we travel down the motorway to Winston’s hydrotherapy. The landscape seems bleached, layered with shades of white and grey. Purple-grey clouds loom above the horizon like echoes of the hills before them. The fields cup rolling clouds of white mist. Icy puddles are like mirror-glass. Soon the orange of sunrise lends colour, until it is leached from the land once more. Canada geese fly low over the landscape.

It’s almost time for the sun to be re-born. The nights will no longer take us further into darkness, but will move towards light. In the meantime, I will seek light in the evergreens that garland the winter landscape, in the glint of a gull’s eye and the ripple of a reflection. The light isn’t gone, it has only retreated, so that others may have a summer too.


Myrtle the Purple Turtle has been a light in the darkness since she first appeared as a story told by a mother to her daughter to combat bullying and to encourage us all to ’embrace the shell we’re in’. Mother and daughter Cynthia Reyes and Lauren Reyes-Grange, have just published Myrtle’s fourth adventure, Myrtle and the Big Mistake, which deals with the subject of harmful gossip in a gentle, caring and sensitive way for young children. Beautifully written and illustrated, this book also has the added bonus of suggested discussion topics in the back to open a dialogue with children on the subject. Available through the usual outlets and you can visit Cynthia HERE.


Songwriter Will McMillan shares another point of light in what many have felt to be a dark year, by sharing a song recorded by him and written by Barbara Baig. It is a song about strength and love, and they have chosen to share it as widely as possible so that it finds those who need it. You can find it HERE.

135 thoughts on “Seeking light

  1. What a lovely positive post! Thank you Andrea. Here, the last few days have seen blustery winds and rain, cold rain, and we’ve only managed a few short walks. Your pictures and prose are heartening. 😊

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  2. Your posts are just beautiful , Andrea, just touching the parts we are not all able put into words. Thanks to Sandra, who has the same sensitive skill, I have followed your thoughts for a while. So refreshing to have the soul moved in an upside down world. Thank you.

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  3. I echo much of this. Such grey days we’ve been getting, on top of everything else, it can be so depressing. So yes, our eyes seek out colour. We’re not alone in this. I notice lots of flower photos now being posted to Twitter, everyone wanting to brighten the days.
    Seven days to go. Then she’ll begin the long northward crawl again.

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  4. Andrea, I see you’re a light-seeker too and I can relate to the peace of putting the tree lights etc on during the dark of dusk and then the last thing at night. There is something inherently calming with this ritual – and one I miss in January. I’m smiling how you search for the remaining colour of the season, it does indeed tend to fade into mists of blues, greys, whites … the bright sparks of red from the holly bush are welcome indeed. Yeah! It is lovely to read your review of Myrtle’s latest adventures and it’s heartening to see how Cynthia and her daughter are so creative in carrying on the story! Great idea about the discussion topics at the end.

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  5. So well said, Andrea. The lights of people’s trees and their house decorations are a lovely salve to so much of the darkness going on in the world. And all the little lights in nature around us you describe. What you write reminds me of someone saying that the sun is always there and shining even if we can’t see it all the time. Your descriptions are little lights themselves. Thanks. 🕯

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  6. The solstice is only a week away! I like your reminder that we get winter so others can enjoy summer, so true. I’ve been thinking of our shared SAD and wanted to let you know my naturopath suggested 100 mg/2x/day of 5-HTP, a tryptophan supplement. It does seem to take the edge off. Thought I’d pass it on. ❤

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    • Thanks Eliza and for thinking of me. I think I’ve found it easier so far – working from home I don’t need to go out for the dog walk until it’s light, so I don’t have to go out in the dark. I’m starting to struggle with getting up a bit now though, looking forward to some time off next week.!

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  7. Andrea, another stellar evocative piece
    I love the Myrtle series of books. Will’s s sensitive song was a beautiful coda to your piece. We are expecting our first major snow storm on Wednesday
    So far I have seen a cherry tree putting forth a few blooms and Winter Jasmine in bloom. S o Spring will come when the sun returns again
    The colors you mentioned remind me of half mourning which seems appropriate for the warning days of a wretched year.

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  8. Lyrically evocative as ever. I love December. Somehow, with colour “leached” from the landscape (as you so beautifully put it) the colours that line the clouds at the start and end of the days seem softer yet deeper and more affecting. You capture the yellows and purples in prose that is positively painterly.

    This put me in mind of Norman Nicholson’s The Pot Geranium. While that poem has a jubilant tone, it is the jubilation of a man, confined to his room by illness and missing the freedom of the outdoors, who finds release in the infinite splendour of the pot plant on his window sill. He realises everything he was missing is right there. He had only to look. It’s sort of the same idea as your finding light in the colours that remain.

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  9. Thanks for the uplifting post Andrea. I’m with you on seeking the light, especially at this time of year. And this crazy year, I’m more conscious of wanting to see and feel light (within and without). That stirred me to decorate early, create a Christmas letter, and post about Hygge (danish for comfort). May we see and spread the light!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. You describe the weather so detailed. Reading from here in sunny (but stormy) Philippines, it feels like I was tele transported to your place. We don’t have snow here but plenty of storms. Sometimes I would think how it feels like living in a place where it snows for months.

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  11. There’s still so much to see in the countryside. You seem to have noticed so much. Thank you. I like your generous comment that our ‘retreated” sun has gone south to give our southern friends ‘their summer too’. Keep turning on those lights. My daughter has been having some candle-lit breakfasts recently – a lovely idea for the Advent-Christmas period.

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  12. Beautiful pictures Andrea. The writing made me feel like I was on a walk too looking for the light. Thankfully temperatures in Mumbai have dropped and we are enjoying cool climes over the last two days- a respite from the heat. We’re not putting up a tree this year but I love seeing the lights and trees through other people’s windows. Its lovely how you’ve connected the light to Cynthia’s new book. Congratulations to her!

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  13. Hello, Andrea; your words bring 🌞 to the dreariest of days, and have wonderful meaning. I’ll tell you what sprang to mind when I read your post – a Waddle of Emporer Penguins out there on the windswept ice in the grips of a howling blizzard. The way they shuffle around in a circle so that every one of them gets a break from the Storm. The same principle as our planet tilting on its axis to give both hemispheres an equal bite of the cherry.
    The thought of Winston curled up on the seat, no doubt without a care in the World, brings forth a welcome smile. Bless him.
    Take care when you’re out and about, Andrea. Speak soon.
    Mick.

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      • It’s the same here, Andrea, lots of rain. All of my trackways around the garden have become mud-bound. As demoralizing as it is for some of us it benefits others. Swings and roundabouts I suppose.
        If you fancy a treat; I can recommend the Hairy Bikers apple crumble recipe, it’s delicious. I’ve made three sofar, and providing that I can still squeeze through the kitchen door I plan to make more.

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  14. “So that others may have summer, too.” A beautiful reminder that everything is transitory. We are approaching the deepest shadows, but there is always light to be found. The most precious. Thank you for shining your light, Andrea. Wishing you a magical solstice and holiday season.

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  15. Your meditative posts are such a pleasure to read, Andrea. I feel like I’ve just completed a round of deep breathing – all oxygenated and calm. On the subject of light and dark, I read a different take on the darkness at this time of year over at Feminism and Religion – how the dark is a time of needed rest that can be embraced. But the post went deeper into the symbolism and how fear of the dark has contributed to racism. I won’t do the post justice with my summary but here’s the link, in case you want to read more. https://feminismandreligion.com/2020/12/14/winter-solstice-can-we-celebrate-the-restful-welcoming-darkness/

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    • Thanks Susanne. I definitely agree that we should welcome the dark as well as the light. The article is interesting – I’ve come across Carol before. Years ago I read a book by Lucy Goodison called Moving Heaven and Earth, which was all about how we tend to see the world in terms of polarities and this leads to unhelpful divisions. That book turned me away from traditional witchcraft / wicca, which I felt confirmed those polarities, – I even wrote my dissertation about it. at university Eventually I returned to witchcraft when I realised it didn’t have to be practiced in terms of polarities.

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  16. I guess I couldn’t listen to the song because I don’t have those apps on my computer. But the written word here and the photos are beautiful and evoke this time of the year in a northern place so well. I was thinking about you and your aesthetic this morning when my daughter was describing the design she wants for her wedding. We ended up calling it “a fairy witch wedding in the woods.” Dark and jewel tones, twigs and rocks, fairy lights and candles. However, this will be in the desert.
    That last photo before Myrtle really gets me because the texture is so amazing I feel as if I could handle those clouds.

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  17. Andrea, you have me leaning further into the dark and looking more closely at the light–in whatever way it appears. Your writing is evocative and beautiful as always. My heart thrills when you say things like “roofs stippled in frost” or “leaves sugared with ice”. Keep on keepin’ on!

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  18. Beautiful piece, Andrea! I am doing the same thing that you do: waking up early and turning on all the Christmas lights in the house. It brings me great joy as I make hot tea and settle down to read. Many blessings for the holidays!

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  19. Thanks, as always, for letting me tag along as you explore your landscape. Your words put me right beside you.
    I love having distinct seasons for the reasons you explore: seeking the color and light that’s distinct to each. Winter can be challenging, with shortened daylight and fewer displays of color, but its all there if we look.

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  20. I love that last line because I’ve never thought of it like that. I also love reading your blog because I always come away with a better vocabulary around the natural world and when I go out walking I always look at the world in a slightly more acute way from reading your work.

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  21. I like the light the light I am always searching for the light. I love the way you show us that we find light in the winter through our Christmas tree lights and the lights of the windows as we walk by and the light in the gleam of a bird’s eye. Absolutely beautiful. We have no color outside now but white as we just had a storm that brought us a foot of white fluffy snow. But snow white brings us light in its eerie way also. By the way, our woodpeckers stay here year-round which is interesting that it’s different where you live. During the winter storms like today’s snow the woodpecker family loves our suet hanger and hangs out all day on there. Xo

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  22. So otherworldly, so far away, while I am sweltering under the heat in the southern hemisphere. After I had read those words, my imagination takes flight. I closed my eyes while the frosty landscape begins to appear all around me. Maybe tomorrow another read and another walk under barren trees on frozen ground.

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  23. The golden light you describe makes such a difference for me at this time of year. Whether it’s a bright golden light midday or the more mellow before the sun goes down in late afternoon, I’m craving light. Wishing you and yours a light-filled, love-filled holiday, Andrea!

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  24. A beautiful descriptive walk through winter, Andrea!

    It is good to see another Myrtle book out. She is needed more than ever now.

    I am listening to Will McMillan now, and enjoying his music. Thank you for the link!

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  25. Thoughtful and expressive as ever Andrea. I am comfortable with darkness and all it brings. Nevertheless I am always conscious of this ‘darkness into light’ moment in the year which, of course, has special significance this time around.

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  26. Your post is perfect reading on the eve of winter, I can feel the whispers of the cold and light to come with that touch of hope that spring brings…the last leaves are falling in my world with frost often on the rooftops in the morning and the last two afternoons I’ve been out crossing off holiday to-do’s has been soaked in pelting rain and gloomy darkness. The closing of our apartment after sunset is one of my favourite pleasures…
    I hope and yours, Andrea, have a wonderful winter week, may it unfold in beauty, twinkling lights and many small pleasures.

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  27. You certainly do turn the ordinary into magic Andrea. And it’s so similar to our “dreary” winter weather on the west coast of Canada unless you put on Andrea’s glasses. All the best of the season to you and may the new year bring us new hope!

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  28. Beautiful word-scaping! All the pictures now reside alongside your words that transport a person. I feel as if I am back North again, and the Holly makes me smile, like a happy cousin beaming back at you.
    Thank you for this window into winters slow embrace. 😘

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  29. I love your idea of seeking the light in wintertime, and finding the beauty in these moments no matter how short lived they may be. Just the other day out walking my dog (technically my parent’s dog, but mine when I’m home 🙂 ), and thought about the beauty of winter is that the time between sunrise and sunset are so close and I love this simple fact. Then to read above “I watch the bloom of sunrise and the sweep of sunset” and it is exactly the feeling I had when I thought about these events during my walk. Wishing you well and look forward to reading more of you in ’21.

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