And so friends, December 1st hath arrived, the glistening, white frost is making us have to defrost our cars in the mornings and winter is upon us once more. Time to hibernate. I, like so many are inclined to do just that usually, but recently I’ve taken to heading out more during these slower, shorter days to chase the winter sunlight and to enjoy the everyday treats of nature.
I find that being outdoors in winter is not only refreshing but a complete mental and physiological tonic. The fresh air, vitamin D and peaceful sights and sounds are nurture for the soul. A long, mindful walk of a couple of hours in beautiful countryside or by the sea is the ultimate mood lifter. I breathe in all of the sights, smells and sounds all around me and I make sure to notice the small things. The imprint of the season on a leaf or tree, the golden beauty of low, winter sunlight on frosted foliage or that lovely, liminal light towards the end of my walk – the gloaming – heralds the darkness.
And that brings me onto why I love the night …
There is great pleasure to be had from coming home from an invigorating walk, still feeling the cold on our faces before entering the warmth of our house again. That first sip of a good glass of red wine accompanied by the heavenly aroma of a slow-cooked stew that’s been simmering for hours is your reward. I firmly believe that this kind of cooking and eating cheers you up in winter, because it’s what the body needs. Also, eating seasonally is vitally important to our mood and mental health. Eating hearty, stews, risottos, soups made with seasonal vegetables are what we need in winter. Eating in this way connects our body to nature. Give the body back its seasons and the mind is saner. Truth.
Try it this coming weekend. Get plenty of candles in and seasonal, nourishing food (and wine. Aye, always plenty of wine!) Make a fire if you have one or stick one up on the TV via YouTube if you don’t. Light those candles, switch off all mobile phones (or more ideally, don’t even have them in the same room!) and simply talk to your loved ones. Reminisce, reflect, laugh and share your memories. The dark lends itself to exploring our pasts.
Firelight expands the hours and alters the thoughts and conversations we have. We listen more, talk more quietly and gently, there are longer pauses in the conversation, we lose our inhibitions more easily and start to notice our feelings more. Whilst normally, we talk about what we’ve been up to or what we’re doing, by candlelight who notice how we are.
And, is it just me, but don’t you agree that the night also encourages our creativity? I tend to read more in the winter, write more, think more, sleep more. The slowness of night helps my creativity. I often have my best ideas at dawn or at nightfall, but not if I switch on the lights – then I start thinking about planning and preparation, deadlines, demands … all of the high stress, pragmatic stuff of life that belongs to the high of the strip-lit, daylight world of work and overstimulation.
So, with that in mind folks, I wish you all a slow, soothing festive period and hope that you will join me in some fire-gazing time. Let’s not wish the short days of winter away, let’s instead extend them by staying in the present and hug the night round us like the dear, old friend it is.