And so it begins …
Determination. Persistence. Resistance. Constancy.
Humans have cleared the land of ‘weeds’; laid a gravel path edged with a concrete strip; planted a bed of ornamental shrubs (many of which have died); and mulched that garden bed with metal chips yet, in spite of all that destruction of its habitat, this little Colt’s-foot (Tussilago farfara) has managed to push through and begin to flower.
I went for a lovely long walk around parts of Cardiff Bay yesterday and it was sunny and warm, so warm that I had to strip off my scarf and the thin jumper I was wearing over my t-shirt and under my fleece. Spring was definitely in the air and, on my return walk home, I discovered I wasn’t the only one to be feeling the temperature change. These crocuses were putting on a glorious display in the churchyard of St Augustine’s and in the small grassy area just down the hill from the church. Beautiful!
‘Those who contemplate the beauty of the earth find reserves of strength that will endure as long as life lasts. There is something infinitely healing in the repeated refrains of nature – the assurance that dawn comes after night, and spring after winter.’
Rachel Carson (1907-1964) was an American marine biologist and conservationist. This quote is taken from her seminal work Silent Spring, 1962.
I can see it coming. Rolling silently over the house roofs and tree tops from the south, where the sea lies, where the ocean roars. Slowly, gradually, the light grows dim, eerie, the sun’s rays weaker, unable to penetrate the gloom. Trees vanish, leaving mere ghostly outlines.
Sounds become muffled but, at the same time, strangely amplified. Voices echo, seem nearby yet, in reality, are hundreds of metres distant. Footsteps tap, tap, tap. Spectral figures appear, pass quickly by, disappear once more. Birds fall silent as if afraid to pierce the silence with their squawks, tweets, chirps.
Fog is everywhere, blanketing the lake, flowing along the brook, shrouding buildings, hovering over bushes, making branches droop, making hair frizz. Creeping tendrils wind their way through tree branches, wrap themselves around park benches, slither between railings. Fog makes throats choke and chests heave, and seeps into old bones.
On Roath Lake, the light-less lighthouse needs a light today and a horn to warn.
I enjoyed a lovely long meander around Cardiff’s Bute Park on the weekend, strolled the riverside paths, strode along the towering lime avenue, and scuffed through the occasional deep drift of autumn leaves. It was magical! I took a ton of photos, as I always do, and when I was editing them later that evening, I realised I had one scene that was almost a perfect fit for an image I took last year. In fact, it was exactly one year, one month and one day ago. These are those two images, the oldest first.
Are you getting up early tomorrow to see the sunrise? Crowds will gather at England’s ancient monument Stonehenge, and around the world various cultures will be celebrating because this is the solstice, from the Latin solstitium meaning ‘the sun stands still’.
As our modern calendar (of 365 days and a leap year of 366) does not equate exactly with the solar calendar of 365.2422 days, the precise time of the solstice varies each year. This year, at 4:49am (GMT) on 22 December, the earth will reach the point where the North Pole is tilted furthest from the sun. For us northerners, this means that, in the coming days, we will begin to see an increase in the hours of daylight.
For the ancient Romans, this was the festival of Saturnalia, seven days of partying and gift-giving. For the Scandinavians, it was the Feast of Yuul when the Juul (Yule) log was ceremonially brought in and one end placed in the fire as a tribute to the Norse god Thor, protector of mankind. In China, the celebration is called Dong Zhi (‘winter arrival’), a time for family get-togethers, eating glutinous-rice-ball soup and becoming one year older! Whether or not you are celebrating perhaps, just like the sun, pause, savour the stillness, reflect, then take a deep breath and move boldly into the year ahead.