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Festive greetings

I'd just got back to my desk after a lunchtime walk, grumpy that the weather warning for snow had only resulted in dismal slush and rain landing on ice, making the footpaths so horrible to walk on that I actually wished I'd not gone outside at all. As well as my slither round the block, I'd also spent my lunch hour ordering some new year's cards as the Christmas cards were languishing unwritten still in their packet. I returned to an email in my inbox, alerting me to a new post on Kari Leibowitz's substack that I mentioned in my last blog. Several things caught my attention! Firstly I'm not the only person to have given up on Christmas cards in favour of celebrating the new year. Secondly, quietly fuming about my rotten walk and the fact that I had almost certainly got an even more rotten one ahead in the evening, this line from her winter challenge stopped me in my tracks:

Cultivating winter wonder comes in noticing and relishing small comforts: the warmth of your home after a winter walk.

I wasn't doing myself any favours muttering about how much I hated the ice, there were things that I could have been enjoying out there, if it hadn't been for the soundtrack of grumpy that was going on in my head. The red berries frozen in the ice; Christmas lights brightening up the gloom. It's the cold and gloom of winter that make the festive lights and the cosiness of a woolly blanket so what's the best thing to focus on? Darkness or light? Certainly moaning about it all wasn't helping, and the house felt surprisingly warm in comparison with the outdoors even with the heating off.

Kari also included a bonus challenge in her last post before Christmas and that was to celebrate the solstice on 21st December. The longest night of the year marks the move back towards the light. What could be a better thing to celebrate than the days getting longer? I'm posting this on the day of the solstice so the chances are that you're reading this after the event, but even though the long nights might already be getting shorter, we're not going to have light evenings any time soon, so take some time to coorie in, maybe light a candle, savour a cup of tea as the sun (?) goes down. There hasn't been much evidence of sun today in these parts, so I was thrilled when I received a text this morning from a friend at Newgrange, the tomb in Ireland aligned to the winter solstice sunrise with the sun showing over the horizon! How thrilling to be there, and even more so for the lucky 12 people who were able to actually stand in the burial chamber and witness it. At Stonehenge, the Druids will celebrate the solstice at sunrise on 22nd December as that is the closest sunrise to the actual moment of the solstice which falls at 9.48pm GMT on the 21st. English Heritage have a new skyscape feature on their website, enabling you to see the skies above Stonehenge live and to witness for yourself the solar alignment of the stones. Again, with rain battering off the window above me and leaden skies as far as the eye can see, I was thrilled to turn on Stonehenge TV as I am liable to call it, and see the sky tinged with radiant pink as the sun starts to set. It's good to get out into nature, but it's thrilling to be able to connect with people and places far away via technology.

In terms of actual physical connection to nature, I was really grateful to join the Countryside Ranger team in South Lanarkshire on Monday and get out to Chatelherault to gather items from nature and then use them in a range of art practices. As I arrived I was blessed with the most vivid rainbow I have seen for a long while, that had plenty of people stop in their tracks and look up. When I got home, I arranged the pine cones, leaves and lichen that I had collected in a wee tin and now I have the essence of Chatelherault distilled in my flat. I've mentioned before how much I love this Concentrates of Place practice; there's no pressure to name what you are collecting or for it to be "art" so it's accessible to almost anyone. I recommend giving it a go. And that's it for 2022; Get Outdoors Lanarkshire will be taking a well deserved break for a couple of weeks to get outdoors and connect to nature. Don't forget the 12 Days of Nature is still lurking on our website to prompt you in your nature adventures and to ensure you're humming an annoying song for the whole festive period. Have a good one folks.

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