Into the Light
A weatherman said on television last night that December is the darkest month. I disagree. The winter solstice may be our shortest day, frosts may have plucked the last leaf from the sheltered branch, but this is a time of promise. The advent calendar that hangs on my study wall reminds me of this. The countdown to Christmas – of happy family times, opening presents and overindulging in all manner of rich food – gets ever closer with each open window and consumed chocolate.
December, being the last month of the year, cannot help but make us think of what is to come.
New Year’s Eve is a celebratory time, of great promise and proud reflection. So no, December is not the darkest month.
December is the lightest month. It may not have the energy and vitality of April or May, but what it lacks in verdant charm it makes up for in cosiness. Wood smoke that drifts from chimneys and from the end of village gardens; beef stews bubbling in casserole pots; steam rising from the spout of a kettle; bread toasted in front of an open fire. They all prove that the ‘end’ of the year is really just the beginning, a time that energises us for what is to come.
With this in mind, I stepped forth from my cottage this morning and walked my usual dawn route along the lane to the stile in the hawthorn hedge that has been my place of reflection these past eleven months. There I stood and watched the sunrise, as I did in February and every month since then. I saw deer in the fields and a fox in the lane; they didn’t mind a frosty start to the day. Later the townsfolk would be cursing the crust of ice beneath their feet and on their cars. The sun, low on the horizon, would be ‘too bright’ for commuters’ journey to work.
These people didn’t have the same start to the day as me. They didn’t know that December is the lightest, brightest, most self-inspiring month.
Self-inspiring. What does this mean? Well, Seasonal Adjustment Disorder in check, it means that these long nights and cold days encourage us to look inward. If spring-cleaning de-clutters our homes, then self-inspiring removes the dead wood from our thoughts and helps us to focus on what’s important. It’s an act of introversion, reflection and hope.
Back to the stile. It was here, this morning, before the banging of doors, scraping of cars and revving of engines, that I removed the notepad from my jacket pocket and read these monthly journals. The dawn light was just bright enough to see my handwriting; my gloved hands fumbled as they turned the pages of my journal. I laughed aloud in places, went silent in others. What I found rewarding, the thing I noticed most, was the sense of direction and purpose in the writing. It was like reading the opening chapter of a book.
As the author of these words, I reflected on the meaning of my observation. These words are not contrived. The stories are based on real life. Yet what I was writing about at the start of the year was a different world to where I am now, how I now feel and what I now see.
Not too long ago, the Priory was my secret place – a retreat for when times were hardest. And they were hard times. But the Priory now is an everyday, normal thing. Still very special, it has become the basis of my being, the ‘self-inspiration’ that has given me a new perspective of the world.
A crowd of people does not always know who or what is at its centre, especially when it’s moving outwards. I am moving inwards, firstly to know myself and secondly to share what I find.
An inward spiral? Only to begin with. All whirlpools eventually disperse and flow outwards, usually as a larger and more powerful body of water. Together, you and I have this strength. I know it. You know it. We have the courage to don our favourite caps, waxed jackets and wellies and walk out into the winter darkness knowing that what we find will become brighter and warmer with every visit.
Welcome, my friend, to the Priory.
This is a sample chapter from A Meaningful Life, Fennel's Journal No. 1
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