Thursday, 11 December 2014

A different season

There is something about this time of year that feels different. It's not just the onset of Christmas, nor even (for those that observe it) the preceding weeks of Advent, though it is connected to both of those seasons. I think that it's partly shaped by the change in the light (darker mornings and evenings, longer nights) and the weather (colder, wetter, greyer) - two things which I feel increasingly sensitive to. As these things change around us, I've noticed that I feel differently about certain everyday things. For example:

Music: at this time of year (it's currently mid-December) I find that I need to listen to quieter, older music. I veer towards voice-led pieces in minor keys - things that I imagine to have been originally sung in the hall of the Manor house at the edge of a deep wood, or sung around the Winter Solstice fire. Or I seek out solo voices singing lullabies which were written by moonlight on a lute. My usual playlist of 70s classic rock and progressive metal (it exists - look it up!) will not work at this time of year (except, perhaps, for a few tracks on the ever-wonderful Songs from the Wood): it's either too brash or too complex; too obvious or too new; too epic or too demanding.

Shops: a mixed blessing - at this time of year they need us, and we need them. But I sometimes find it hard to like anything they sell, or I begin to tell myself that I could make such-and-such an item myself for a fraction of the cost ('All I would need is six metres of red ribbon, four of purple, a dozen silver bells, a square metre of green felt, pine cones, holly leaves, driftwood, needles, strong thread, and an apprentice with three years' experience of theatre set design and I'd be done!'). More realistically, I find myself being drawn to things friends of mine have made with their own hands and are selling as gifts (God bless them, every one).

Work: for an Anglican priest this time of year is going to be busy: there are countless Advent and Christmas events and services, plus the preparation each once requires, to swiftly fill the diary. But there are still emails and meetings, rotas and reports, and it is these that feel the most draining, and which keep us out of step with the season. It feels that we would benefit more from being with people than from communicating at a distance; gain more from sitting together at tables than being occupied at desks. Whatever our work, could there be more giving of practical help and fewer online chores?

There seems to be something about this time of year that draws us to quieter and simpler things. Perhaps it's something to do with being in a season which throws us back onto our own resources a bit more. Or perhaps the stripped-back state of the natural world helps us to appreciate the richness of a hand-made item or the quietness of an ancient song? Or are we more inclined to invest ourselves in making and creating because it brings us back to the limits and opportunities of what and who we are as humans?


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