Time for reflection

winter mooring from Ben Ranyard

The clocks have gone back, the sun sets earlier, as we head towards Samhain it’s time for reflection. Here at Country Gate we’ve lit the first log fires of the season, candles accompany our supper time chats and soups and stews have already begun to replace the salads of the summer.

Every season has its pleasures. Winter is a time for looking back and planning forward, for hunkering down with those you love – if you can this year, for going on nature rambles, clearing the clutter from your life and hitting pause.

Samhain itself is a time for all of the above and for thinking fondly of those who have died, whose presence has gone from our lives even though I’m sure our lives are still touched by them.

I was interested to read a little about how Samhain is celebrated traditionally. Here are the seven ideas that were mentioned a lot.

  1. Go on a nature walk. We’ve booked Stourhead on Saturday.
  2. Build an altar using seasonal fruits. Our kitchen windowsill is home to an impromptu collection of windfall quince, squash, conkers and hazelnuts. That will do.
  3. Light candles. An everyday occurrence
  4. Hold a ceremony. Build a goddess figure from garden prunings. Bring it inside and lay a place at the table. That’s a bit too wicker man for me but I will do some garden pruning.
  5. Have a bonfire. Walk around it and make plans for the coming season. The bonfire at least will happen.
  6. Hit pause – meditate, keep a reflective diary. Yes. Yes. Yes. Such a good thing to do.
  7. Connect with your community. Spent a lovely hour with some old friends last night talking about the support the village has mobilised for individuals over the last few months, what more can be done, drinking wine, and tasting quince ice cream made from some of our tree’s bounty this year. Highly recommended.

Samhain……..beginnings and endings

If there’s a colour for this time of year then surely it must be orange. Carved pumpkins with flickering candles, plates of beautiful gourds and squash, cape gooseberries hanging from the ceiling, burnished leaves and bonfires. It’s a bitter sweet time of year. A time of beginnings and endings; of moving inside to focus on the hearth; of reflection. I do love this time of year – damp and misty mornings, dark nights and the feeling of life slowing down. Of course the lack of daylight hours can be a very powerful negative force but if you spend at least half an hour outside every day -whatever the weather – most people will get by quite happily.

I’ve written about Calan Gaeaf before – the start of the Winter season for the Welsh. The Celts also referred to it as Samhain. The Harvest was safely gathered and animals brought in for the Winter. Families congregated round the hearth. The past growing season was reflected upon and plans discussed for the coming season. Family members and friends who’ve died during the past year were remembered. It’s no different for us.On the plot we’ve been building a new leaf mould bin, clearing and mulching some beds, planting Winter salads and sowing sweet peas in root trainers. The dahlias are still going strong and so we took some to the grave of my daughter’s godmother who died during the year. Later this week we’ll be making our Christmas cake and no doubt we’ll go for a tramp around Stourhead with friends and collect some leaves to make a leaf wreath for the front door.

And of course there’s Bonfire Night which should definitely look something like the scene above photographed by Helen Johnstone back in June at Jubilee Beacon time. I like to think my Celtic ancestors have been gathering like this for thousands of years to bring some warmth and light into the dark days of Winter. It’s time to embrace the advantages of life lived at a slower and more reflective pace.

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