Last spring one of my poems was included in a Scottish literary magazine, Pushing Out the Boat. Although it was published in May, it’s a poem for this time of year, and I thought I’d share it with you now.
One of the inescapable facts about living in the North of Scotland is that it’s dark in mid-winter. Many people who come here from further south find it difficult to adjust to having only 6 hours of light around the winter solstice. For me, the weeks leading up to Christmas and New Year aren’t so difficult: there are Christmas lights and things feel cosy and exciting because we’re building up to a time of feasting and being at home. The challenge comes after New Year. The days are lengthening, slowly but surely, and we’re thinking of spring – but it’s still very dark! So I wrote this poem, almost to myself, about the virtues of winter darkness. The word in the second line, dreich, is an evocative Scottish word meaning dreary and bleak.
Winter Lights Within by Christine Laennec
It’s so dark and dreich here
So far north
So far away
I say: but let me show you
The soft gentle darkness
Of my street in mid-winter.
We can walk past tea-time scenes
Behind a shifting tracery of branches.
There’s my neighbour waving to us
From her golden doorway
A moment’s greeting
Before the clicking lock
Returns her to the warmth of the fire.
Here are roses blooming
In the stained-glass windows:
Curving leaves that twine and glow
Within frames of curving granite.
And can you see, along the terrace,
The delicate chain of lamplight?
Its pattern, pinned to earth,
Is echoed by the stars.
Where I lived before this
It’s true that dusk came later
But for all the winter daylight
There was darkness in my heart.
(Published in Pushing Out the Boat, issue 9, 2010, p. 41.)
If it’s dark where you are, I hope that you can find some winter lights within!