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.

We are all Myrtle the Purple Turtle

From the beginning, it seems, I was always going to be different.  I began life upside down, and from then on, I struggled to find my place in the world.   At times, the difference was visible: the splint I wore as a young child to correct what was then called ‘clicking hips’; the Bells Palsy that for a while paralysed half my face; the period when I made myself stand out with black make up and spiked hair.  At times, the difference wasn’t as obvious: a period of childhood deafness; my sexuality; the feeling that I didn’t quite fit.  So when, in high school, I was targeted by bullies, I was never sure why.  I could only assume there was something wrong with me.

Like many kids, I endured the casual but brutal name-calling so endemic in schools; the name-calling that spotlights any sign of difference.  But I was also targeted by an older group of girls for no reason I could fathom.  Bullying is a brutal process that kids unwittingly play along with of shaping each other into what is acceptable and what isn’t.  It tells us that we are too much of this, not enough of that, stripping us of our uniqueness and telling us that we aren’t good enough as we are.  And there is a shame attached to bullying.  If there is something wrong with us, then it must be something to be ashamed of.  I told nobody I was being bullied.  I still have a clear memory of the intervention of a friend, who realised I was hanging back later at school so that I wouldn’t encounter my bullies on the way home, and made me report it to a teacher.

When Cynthia Reyes’ daughter Lauren was bullied for having a black doll, she began to leave the much-loved doll at home.  She felt that there was something wrong with her that made her different.  To help her feel less alone, Cynthia wrote a bedtime story – Myrtle the Purple Turtle.  Myrtle is a heart-warming story about what it is to feel different, how we try to change to fit in, and ultimately that our differences make us special.

At times, we are all Myrtle.  Sometimes other people make us see difference in ourselves and tell us it is bad.  Sometimes, on comparing ourselves with others, we tell ourselves we aren’t good enough.  Often, it seems society is conspiring to highlight and demonise difference.  Bullying has a long term impact on individuals.  It made me adept at hiding my emotions.  It transformed me from a self-confident little girl into a shy, depressed teenager.  Some of us will emerge stronger.  It will give us insight and compassion for others we may not otherwise have had.  But the effects are long-lasting, and some will not come through it at all.

I wish I’d had Myrtle when I was younger.  I wish someone had told me that I was special as I was.  Myrtle is an important story, helping children to accept and love themselves just as they are.  And today, when the pressures seem even greater, and the methods of bullying have expanded with social media, it is more important than ever that children learn that difference is good, that our unique traits make us special and that self-acceptance and acceptance of others is important.

And now we can all have Myrtle.  Myrtle the Turtle will be available very soon as a beautifully illustrated picture book.  Gentle, funny and uplifting, with a powerful message told in a way that will engage young children, Myrtle promotes the importance of loving the shell we are in.  It strikes me that in many ways this blogging community is like Myrtle’s pond.  We are from a myriad of countries, races and religions, of all ages, differently-abled and from varying backgrounds.  We all have a unique shell that we present to the world and we gather by the pond together and appreciate each one.

Myrtle the Purple Turtle by Cynthia Reyes is published on 9th October.

Visit Cynthia’s blog here and learn more about Lauren’s story here.

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