Posted by: christinelaennec | January 11, 2011

Winter Lights Within

Stained-glass windows around a front door in Aberdeen. January 2011.

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

You say:
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!



  1. As someone who suffers from SAD, this poem spoke to me very much – the sense of hope and light is palpable and really shifted my perspective on this dark and dreich day.

  2. beautiful. just beautiful.

  3. Dear JBBC and Lisa Q, thank you so very much. I’m always very happy (and amazed) when my writing gives people something.

  4. Oh Christine what a beautiful poem, I’ve written it down in my diary..I hope you don’t mind…
    Lovely post thanks for sharing this lovely and warm words

  5. I am so so pleased you commented on the Spoonful site lovely Christine(!) as it brought me back to your page and this poem just about breaks my heart. My eyes welled up (I know I know 🙂 and honestly, my insides sang back!!

    Tell you’d be interested in contributing to Spoonful!!



  6. So evocative of hometime in Wintry Scotland. It brought back a long forgotten memory of an early morning trip to Glasgow airport, before the motorways were built. I remember all those squares of light from the tenement windows – glimpses of Glaswegians starting their days. There is a magic and warmth in those images. Xx

  7. Hey, you. I LOVE that you’ve kept a reader’s journal for so many years. I don’t think you should be embarrassed about that at all. Proud of it, more like. I got so excited when I read in your comment that you loved My Antonia. That is one of my all time favorite books. Big love for that book. And, I loved how you described rereading The Wishing Year. I am going to read that one soon. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Beautiful poem, Christine. I’m also celebrating the inner warmth of our dark winter this january 🙂

  9. Dear Erna, Thea, Jacqui, Relyn and Dorit,
    Thank you all so much for your comments. It’s great to know that other people have had this experience of treasuring winter “hometime” as you put it Jacqui, and the “inner warmth” as you said Dorit.
    Keep cosy, all!

  10. Lovely! You’ve captured the essence of this time of year.

    • Thank you Linda! Your praise means a lot because you’re so attentive, and you have a great eye for seeing what others might easily miss.

  11. Interested to come across your blog. Love Aberdeen, my son and his family used to live there – now in Norway. He has also had poems in Pushing out the Boat (issue 3 & 4)

    • Dear Rosemary,
      Thanks for leaving a comment, and I’m glad you also like Aberdeen. I remember your son! I met him at a poetry group, and I also had a poem in POTB issue 3. I hope he’s doing well and continuing to write – and enjoying Norway. There are more than a few families going back and forth between Scotland and Norway!

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