Circles of Light

Look at how a single candle can both defy and define the darkness. ~Anne Frank

The early mornings are dark now, the light is late to arrive. It is the shortest day of the year here in the northern hemisphere, the solstice that marks the turn to longer days of light. (The word “solstice” comes from the Latin solstitium meaning “sun stands still”) Humans have long celebrated that moment as we turn from dark to light by lighting candles, burning logs, bringing evergreens into our homes, reminding ourselves that the days will grow longer. solsticesunset8

A few years ago, I took a class in creating mandalas, a circle that encloses the expression of our inner selves. The circle is an ancient symbol – the circle of life, the circle of a wedding ring, the circle of councils and celebrations. Some of the mandalas we created in that class were ephemeral, fashioned from found objects in nature. This one of ferns and moss reminds me of a Christmas wreath. intothemoss

At some point during the course, as I set the point of the drafting compass to paper, I suddenly realized that I had created my lower garden as a mandala without realizing it. I had found the center point of the garden plot and pounded a stake into it, tied a rope to it and let it guide me as I walked in concentric circles around it, creating planting beds and paths by dragging a hoe on the ground through the loose dirt.

mid-April

Circle Garden in mid-April

Walking these circular paths in the garden in any season is like tracing the steps of a labyrinth and always puts me in harmony with the natural world. cherryaftersnow

My favorite drawing on paper, however, expresses my love for the earth and my hope for peace and light for the world. Ironically, I discovered that when drawing the wings, the light was made more powerful by drawing shadows for contrast and depth. And so life goes, shadow and light, circles and seasons, sorrows and joys, through the great round of life. On this day and in this season, my wish for each of you  is that the light grows brighter both in your world and in your heart, from the inside to the outside and back again.

wings_tree_mandala copy

In winter, the stars seem to have rekindled their fires, the moon achieves a fuller triumph, and the heavens wear a look of a more exalted simplicity. ~ John Burroughs

All text and images ©2018 Lynn Emberg Purse except where noted.

Here’s a musical view of the winter solstice.

The Light Returns

Welcome, winter. Your late dawns and chilled breath make me lazy, but I love you nonetheless. ~Terri Guillemets

solsticesunsetgateThe winter solstice has arrived – every day from now on will be a little longer and a little brighter as the light returns. It is no wonder that we turn to celebrations of light at this time of year in the northern hemisphere with candles, yule logs, and lights on our Christmas trees.treelights

Mother Nature celebrated the earth’s return towards the light in her own way. The early sunset of the winter solstice lit up the sky with colors ranging from tints of pink, yellow, and blue to fiery corals and golds blazing into the deepening night. It seemed fitting that the shortest day of the year provided the loveliest light. May your days be merry and bright in this season and the next.

The color of springtime is in the flowers; the color of winter is in the imagination. ~Terri Guillemets

You can find some of my winter and Christmas music in the Christmas tab at the top of the page – happy solstice and Merry Christmas, everyone!

I’m Not Ready

It is December, and nobody asked if I was ready. ~Sarah Kay (American poet)

earlyduskWPI’m not ready. I’m not ready for Christmas, I’m not ready for winter, I’m not ready to wake each morning into the dark and cold world of late December. This morning, I awoke to snow and bitter temperatures under a dark gray sky and murmured to Angel “I’m not ready.” She sighed a doggy sigh and snuggled closer, ready to dream some more and pulling me in her wake.

MusicTreeDetailIt is no wonder that Christmas and many other traditions celebrate this time of the year with lights. In the northern hemisphere, the light of dawn comes late and the fading light of dusk comes early. With so few daylight hours and so many of them gray and dark, the bold and hopeful lighting of many lights is necessary to the human spirit and a reminder that the days will soon grow longer.

 

This year, our unusually mild weather icybranchesWPhas allowed me to work in the garden deep into what is usually a cold snowy month. I’ve accomplished garden chores that often get delayed until spring – the leaves gathered and shredded, the trees and shrubs pruned, the summer soil from the pots emptied into the woodland’s edge for building new beds. I’ve already planned next year’s garden – the seeds to start, the plants to order, the perennials to propagate. In fact, it is focusing on next year’s garden that has softened the sting of the coming of winter.

frostyspruceWPThe effects of El Niño are predicted to extend our weather into a long mild winter here in the mid-Atlantic states. It may be global warming, it may be a temporary weather pattern, but whatever it is, I admit that I will welcome a mild winter after the severe weather conditions that have prevailed for the past few years.

I’m cutting branches of pine and holly to decorate the house, I’ve strung many lights on the tree, and I’m planning the Christmas feast for our family, but in my heart, it is all about garden dreams – the return of nature’s light and warmth and new growth. Winter is about endurance of the cold and dark, spring is about the renewal of life. Today, I dream of sugarplums and spring flowers. Here’s to the return of light to the world and to your life- may you be ready for whatever comes.

christmaslightWP

December’s wintery breath is already clouding the pond, frosting the pane, obscuring summer’s memory… ~John Geddes

Winter 12/21/12

Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice.  ~Robert Frost

The wind howling outside my window woke me up early this morning.  WInter is on its way to Western Pennsylvania, after sweeping through the Midwest and laying a trail of snow across the country. It is still warm and wet here this morning but that is predicted to change in a few hours, a change carried by the wind that is now shaking the bare treetops in a wild dance. I am of two minds about winter. When there is snow and ice, it is breathtakingly beautiful but also dangerous. When there is no snow and ice, it is brown and gray but less harsh as well. Perhaps I enjoy both and the constant shift between.  As I contemplate another winter solstice, one surrounded by a great deal of speculation, fear, and hope, I offer a song that I featured last year at this time. Enjoy the return of longer days.

You can’t get too much winter in the winter.  ~Robert Frost

A Song for the Winter Solstice

Winter, an artist’s sketch in charcoal, so clearly etched against a cloud filled sky. . .

Snowy WoodsIn celebration of the moment when the earth turns on its axis back to the light of the sun.  This year, in the northern hemisphere, the winter solstice occurs on December 22. Time and Date offers a clear explanation of the solstice as well as explores the customs and traditions around it. To see a beautiful collection of “brown and gray and sometimes white” nature photography, explore Robin’s post on frosted Queen Ann’s Lace in Life in the Bogs. To read a beautiful modern fairy tale about the Queen of Air and Storm, visit Elizabeth Yon’s “Sweet May: A Fable.”

“Winter” was one of those songs written in a moment, in a winter where snow alternated with grey skies and brown earth. This recording is a “first take” for both the piano and vocal. The visuals are all from my garden.  Enjoy!

All music making is collaborative in nature.  A special thanks to Barbara Nissman for contributing her master’s touch on the piano to this song and Mike Tomaro for his haunting soprano sax improvisations. And as always, to my gifted husband Bill Purse, who generously shares his skills as audio engineer and producer in my artistic endeavors.

Winter, ©2009 Lynn Emberg Purse All RIghts Reserved

Winter, snow falling down
Winter, the world is gray and brown, gray and brown and sometimes white
for a night and a day, then all is gray

Autumn in leaves of gold
Springtime, a thousand shades of green unfold to summer
with its joyous Joseph’s Coat of colors, endless colors, endless colors . . .

Winter, an artist’s sketch in charcoal
so clearly etched against a cloud filled sky
Subtle and dark, lovely and stark in gentle tones of gray
and brown and sometimes white
for a night and a day, then all turns gray
Winter today

Soft clouds, soft snow, soft browns, whites and grays
Winter today

Text and media of “A Song for the Winter Solstice” ©2011 Lynn Emberg Purse, All Rights Reserved. Please do not reblog.