With the night comes stillness and silence,
Darkness covers the land.
The house grows dark on the hillside,
The frost covers every branch and leaf with its crystals,
Winter stars trace their patterns across the sky,
And snowflakes dance their spiral in the shadows,
As the winter wind lies down to rest.
The snow covers every hill and dale
With its gentle fleece,
White stillness and peace
Cover the land.
Happy New Year!
I thought I was dreaming the first time I heard their call here – a call that I associate so strongly with the Isle of Iona. My springtime visits to Iona are always punctuated by their frantic calling as they defend their nests against the predatory gulls who patrol the rocky shores looking for easy pickings. And now they are here, colouring my home landscape with that sense of sky and space and wildness, and poignant voices caught on the wind.
Tender moments shared
Behind the dry stone wall a fat lamb was watching the movement of moorland birds across the sky. She and I craned our necks to watch the lapwings, swirling above our heads and making their distinctive ‘pee wit’ cry. A delicate brown, rare breed sheep with fine curling horns, nestled into the woolly neck of a plump white ewe. Further along the road, two horses stood neck to neck in the green field. A fine chestnut mare was nuzzling the neck of her companion, a young white pony who stood with head bowed as the warm breath brushed her skin. These were touching moments, tender and quiet, between two animals with an understanding.
I find myself looking back over the summer, thinking about the time of harvest as I have been observing it on my morning walks, in the activities of farmers gathering in silage and hay for winter, and in the abundance of foxgloves and other wild flowers in my garden.
The moors are purple now, the blooming heather sweeping across the skyline and tugged by the wind along the roadside. Autumn hints are there – in the scent on the air, the muted colours of the dying summer, softer after the riotous summer palette of sky blue and vivid green and gold.
In the field on the hill top, a phalanx of black crows march in unison across the stubble, like policemen searching for evidence. A neighbouring plot has already been ploughed and made ready for the winter feed crop. Blackberries are beginning to ripen now and this morning my son found three fat hazelnuts on the small tree in our garden. Rowan berries are already reddening in the sun, and a small hawthorn tree on the moor revealed her rusty green fruits as the wind parted her leaves. There is a plentiful harvest still to come.
I am thinking too, about my own harvest – the inner fruits of my personal and spiritual journey since the first new growth of spring. A lot has happened – in my outer life as well as in my spiritual world. Lots of ‘growth opportunities’ as I once heard someone call them… those times that challenge, maybe cause pain, but that do hold within them the seeds of a new understanding.
The sharp breeze catches my hair and I pull my jacket close around my neck. It feels good to stretch my legs in the early morning air, and step out on the high road above the valley. It never fails to lift my heart when I feel the wind on my face and see the changing face of the land I know so well.
Light and colour shift moment by moment, sounds swell and fade, scents tantalise the nostrils and brown hares leg it across the moor. A weasel peeps out from the grassy verge, allowing a glimpse of the sweet heart-shaped face that belies the sharp teeth that can inflict a deathly bite in seconds.
As I look out at the Dene now and watch the buzzard family wheeling above the green canopy in the bright sunshine, I ponder their success.
This is the first time they have bred in this valley too, and I wonder what is it that has drawn both the oyster catchers and the buzzards to home in on the Dene for the first time this year. Both families have been successful. They are very different breeds of bird, with differing needs and lifestyle, yet both have found what they need here.
This reflects back to me the powerful teaching about being able to identify what my own true needs are and the challenge sometimes of knowing how best to meet those needs. I often feel that a situation can seem so complex and yet, in its essence, is probably very simple. When I look out at the land and her creatures, it brings me back to that concept of learning how to live from the essence of who I truly am, responding to outer conditions according to my true nature rather than perhaps being driven by the expectations or needs of others.
Summer Slideshow with music from the CD 'Iona Essence' - Track 'Katherine's Lullaby', by Julie Darling
Julie Darling plays the Celtic Harp. Her inspiration is the land and its music, and spiritual wisdom from the Celtic world.