I have blogged before several times about how in tune we feel with the seasons here on Rum, how dependent on the mercy of nature and how shaped the rhythm of our days, weeks, months, lives are here by the turning of the planet.
Back in our old lives there was a particular stretch of road that I used to drive along on my way to college when I was 17 and first passed my driving test and had a car. Later I used to drive the same bit of road every day on my way to and from work managing a card shop. Years after that I would drive it, not quite so frequently but on a fairly regular basis on our way to visit my sister in law. That bit of road, less than a mile long was the place I would always notice the turning of the seasons. In spring it would be a riot of yellow daffodils and tree blossom, in summer all would be lush and green, in autumn a spectrum of reds, golds, browns as the leaves turned and fell and in winter a stark empty landscape with the low winter sun shining through bare branches.
I never realised how much I noticed that stretch of road until I found myself telling the children about it one spring, drawing their attention to the daffodils. From then on it became our barometer of the time of year, worthy of comment from one or other of us every time we drove along it and noted what nature was telling us.
Here every day is shaped by the time of year – the daily activities whether we are feeding animals five hours apart morning and evening or ten hours apart in the summer, if we are spending our time watering the polytunnel or bringing in firewood, if we are cursing midges or wind and rain! Every window I glance out of tells me thanks to a panoramic landscape view what colour Rum is today and therefore what time of year it is. I am aware of the tides, the moons, the weather, temperature, wind speed and direction, how much rainfall we have had and what that is making the river do today.
Our lives here are so affected, so intertwined, so reliant and dependent on the time of year that it feels appropriate to be marking time, acknowledging the seasons. So as many of our ancestors have done throughout time today we marked the winter solstice, the shortest day, the rebirth of the new sun. We read about various customs and thought about ways to make them relevant and personal to us. Apples play a big theme in solstice celebrations so rather than a chocolate yule log (no eggs!) I made a cinnamon spiced apple roll which opened up in the oven while cooking so became a ‘solstice strudel’. It was delicious!
We gathered a piece of fallen log and cut it in half – half to burn and half to decorate with holly, pine and larch cones and candles. We lit a candle each after sunset and all talked about what we are grateful to nature for today.
We also made some more decorations for the tree using willow, larch cones, pine branches and holly and draped branches of cut holly over the windows. It all looks and smells lovely and hopefully marks the beginning of both this next journey toward the longest day again and the start of a new family tradition.