21 Dec Solstice Greetings

The sun has set on the last day of the sun’s annual cycle – the solstice. We went for a walk in the dimming afternoon light as rooks made their way back to the roost.

It is the shortest day of the year but the day has been damp and overcast so the gloom has been continuous. As we came towards the wood, a roe deer turned, speeding across the field, the white rump picking it out in the falling light. It put me in mind of the winter carol – The rising of the sun and the running of the deer. Tomorrow as the sun rises it appears to be reborn, the start of a new solar year and its increase in strength for the next six months.

The carol also celebrates two winter plants – the holly and the ivy. It is no surprise that people thought of holly and ivy as sacred, hanging on to some green in the otherwise dull countryside. The splash of red berries and the light reflecting leaves of holly lift the spirits. We are planting holly and ivy today – an investment in the future and in the wildlife drawn towards both plants.

Celebrating the solstice, and the turning of the year, feels in tune with cycles and seasons, the rhythm of the earth, and an antidote to the mass commercialisation of the later Christmas festival. As people fight over Christmas trees, order more food than they can eat and spend on presents, it is a relief to walk out across the fields and away from the Christmas crowds. In the short days ahead, wildlife has to work hard to find plenty of food, safety from predators and shelter for the long night ahead. Perhaps, like us, they will greet tomorrow’s sunrise with relief that the days will slowly begin to lengthen.