This week we remain in Scandinavia, in spirit at least. Meet Dave, he's a Tomte, if you're in Sweden, a Tontuu in Finland and a Nisse in Norway. He was named at our Green Volunteering Network meeting this week when we were talking about creative ways to help people connect to nature, of which more in January. Tomtes are creatures from Scandinavian folklore, a welcome companion through the long dark days of winter, and boy are the days ever feeling long and dark this year, or is that just me?
I was feeling a bit despondent about the darkness, as I went out this morning. The sky seemed excessively gloomy and there was no sign of sunrise. Then I turned a corner and there on the horizon was a bright band of light and suddenly everything felt a little better. And there is light ahead, next Tuesday 21st December is the winter solstice for those of us in the northern hemisphere; the shortest day of the year and the first day of astronomical winter. It also marks the first day of the 12 day Yule festival, celebrating the return of the light, as the earth turns back towards the sun. I can't wait. I keep reminding myself that I like this time of year because of the dark. It's the dark that make the twinkly lights, well, twinkly.
One week remains of our nature advent(ure) and there are some great prompts coming up, which is where the tomtes come in. At the start of advent, a twitter account called @attention2place caught my eye, with their online advent prompts using the hashtag #placewhimsy. Whimsy is one of my very favourite words, as I rather like things that are quaint or fanciful. These tweets are encouraging us to experience whimsical encounters with places. They suggest choosing a character to travel with you, to prompt you to explore local places from your character's point of view. Helping you to engage with the world, nature and other species differently. There are some wonderful photos of magical characters exploring nature, which made me think of the proliferation of painted pebbles with positive pronouncements that appeared in parks during lockdown. Not being the sort of person to just crack on, I decided that the first thing I had to do was make a clay tomte. As it happens, I was prepared for this moment and glad for an excuse to break out my air drying clay stash. While I sat listening to a webinar with The Harmony Project about how education can help connect children to nature, I started to make some beardy boys with pointed hats. It didn't all go according to plan, but finally, halfway through December I have some passable tomtes who are ready for action. At lunchtime today I took Dave for a walk, we investigated holes in tree trunks, moss by the side of the road, a bamboo forest. A forest for him anyway. I had a lot of fun. I noticed a lot of things that I would not have noticed if I hadn't been stooping down low or reaching up inside holly bushes. Obviously you don't have to make your own creature, perhaps you already have a magical being in your house who would like to explore nature with you. Dave is now back indoors, happy after his adventure. Although I had planned to leave him in the wild, I heeded the warning of my colleagues at the Green Volunteering Network who suggested that leaving "tat" in our parks is not to be recommended, and I'll be breaking out the porridge for him on solstice night - another Scandinavian tradition that helps ensure he'll look after the house for the year ahead.
This is the last blog of the year, so wishing you all a happy solstice, yule, christmas or winter holiday. Celebrate the light returning, enjoy the natural smells we associate with this time of year - pine, cinnamon, citrus and go out into nature as much as possible.