I’m curled up by the fire with my new favourite mug full of coffee and a stack of mince pies; its been dark since 2 o’clock and wildly windy but here I am, cozy in my nest, just the comfortable sound of the stove chimney moaning slightly and the rain bubbling in the gutters. I’ve been thinking a lot this week about our carefully curated, aesthetically pleasing virtual lives and how we project ourselves to the outside world…a world where people are struggling just to exist, never mind taking pictures of their latest baking triumph or immaculate room decor. Sometimes the world just seems to be so full of craziness and greed and violence that writing a blog or drawing a bear or trying to sell the last pack of Christmas cards feels totally self-indulgent. Guilt and impotence in the face of world events can be quite paralysing, I want to DO something to help but I haven’t the skills…or the money to salve my conscience. So many of the artists, makers and creative people I’ve “met” online have similar concerns (and I know that a group of people here in Keswick are organising themselves to try and offer practical help to Syrian refugees) that maybe we all just have to do what we can, try not to let compassion fatigue numb us and hope that small actions of peace and generosity can influence the bigger ones.
Well, even in the darkest times there has to be a little light and sitting here on the eve of Winter Solstice I’m taking the time to think about the coming year and how to be more positive, wondering what I can actually contribute to this swirly blue planet and also what I would like to achieve for myself in the year I turn 50 (oh good grief how soon that happened!). It is an introspective time, the deepest dark of midwinter- maybe I’ll wake up tomorrow with a clear idea of what I want to be when I grow up, perhaps I’ll get up early and toast the sunrise at Castlerigg with a flask of hot something…
Apart from all the worrying about the world this week I’ve been out in the outdoors where I climbed up above the mist and fog to emerge on the top of the highest mountain on the planet (it is a strange thing that it always feels like the highest mountain even when it’s just a tall hill) I felt momentarily dizzy as the whole aspect changed suddenly and different parts of the landscape were revealed like a theatrical set. The mist rose and fell like a living thing and the surface of the cloud lake went from smooth opaque pool to stormy cauldron and back as the sun set. A cloud inversion like another reality where the mountains are islands and distance is impossible to judge. We would all have to live in tall houses above the storm line.
Back down in the thick fog and fading light we decided to have another go at swimming (last week we’d managed a quick dip in Loughrigg Tarn leaping about on the shore like nutters in gimp suits, doing the Floral Dance to warm up our screaming fingers and toes). This felt exciting and reckless but since we had no intention of swimming more than a few metres in the shallows of Rydal Water it also felt safe… hidden by the fog. I can’t explain how magical it felt to plunge in to milky water that blended into the sky so perfectly there was no horizon; I imagine it would be terrifying if we’d gone too far from shore but the cold drove us back after about 10 seconds to dance a warm up jig before doing it all again. It was pitch dark by the time we trotted back through the wood, the mist so heavy that the water droplets hung in the beams of our head torches and our foggy breath bounced the light back in our eyes. Obviously I didn’t take any pictures but I saw this on Instagram, taken on the same day, and it seemed too beautiful not to share. Its a picture by Paul Scully of Jenny Rice (who is clearly a lot braver and more photogenic than me- in a bikini rather than wetsuit); they were recently featured on the BBC’s Open Country programme about the Lake District and Wordsworth.
So dear readers, tomorrow the nights will slowly slowly start to get shorter and already I can see snowdrop shoots where the birds have scuffled the fallen leaves away under the feeder. Still I’m hoping for snow and some brighter days before the rush of Spring. Right, it’s time for me to remove my Polar Bear bobble hat and rinse off the henna mud that is plastered on my hair, my one misguided concession to hair styling, also I need to stop getting distracted and do some drawing (If you follow me on Facebook you’ll know I’ve been posting a bear drawing for every day in December and I’m running out).
Happy Winter Solstice wherever you are, thank you for reading x
Reading: “Waterlog” ~Roger Deakin and The Barefoot Diaries