joanna paterson

birds, flowers & landscapes, in words & pictures

Watching the Light

In amongst the brouhaha of this time of year, this day, the shortest, is the one that often feels the most significant.

The symbolism is pretty irresistible but I’ll take the actuality too, minute by minute, from here on in, a minute of extra light.

winter light on the shortest day

Caught By A Rainbow

The days in December have been dark, and wet. We haven’t had the inconvenience of ice and snow, and for this our commuting selves are grateful, but the absence of sunlight, of any kind of light, can get to you after a while, and leave you staring at the sky, and at the hour by hour weather forecasts, hoping for a break in the clouds.

I grabbed an hour or so the other week when the forecast looked auspicious, or passable at least, that fitted with the daylight hours, and other work and domestic plans. I had an hour, a whole hour, to head up the nearest hill, camera in hand, and breathe for a while.

As I climbed, you could see the break in the weather that I was enjoying. Although I was bathed momentarily in strong winter sunlight, across the other side of the river, huge dark clouds were looming, rolling and filling the skies.

A rainbow followed, cutting through the sky, arching across what sometimes feels like the whole of central Scotland from way up here, stretching out in front of you. I stood, transfixed by the rainbow straight ahead.

I have no picture to show you – I couldn’t catch it.

It caught me.

As I stood and watched, transfixed, a bird of prey flew across and stopped, and hovered.

For a few moments the sky was full.

For a few moments the sky and the world and the time were full.

There was nothing but this: the land stretched out ahead, the sleet showers looming, the arc of the rainbow, the hovering wings of a bird of prey.

And then the light changed, and the rainbow faded.

The bird flew on.

And in the aftermath I said a quiet thank you for the intensity of this moment, reflecting, picture-less, that this, this, is why I take photographs.

The Blue Hour

I was learning about the blue hour this week.

The blue hour

is the period of twilight each morning and evening when the Sun is a significant distance below the horizon and the residual, indirect sunlight takes on a predominantly blue hue

Down at the Forth shore in December the day felt blue even at lunchtime,

but then again it is so often blue down here, the space and the shore and the river light all playing off each other and merging into not much more than blue,

which is one of the reasons I like to head down here when I can, just to mooch, just to look at the sky and the shore and the absence of stuff,

and even if the light is low I am still grateful that it is not chucking it down with rain, and that although I have to work in an office my job is flexible enough that at some points in the week I can duck away in time to catch what little is left of the light,

blue winter light by the river Forth

and just walk along the shore, and let the soft blue light do its work of seeing off the winter blues.

The Opening

Perhaps it always only ever takes but a moment –

Just the fraction of a moment for something to catch your eye: some movement in the trees, some fragment of poetry, some kindness in a stranger’s smile, some chord in a song, some way the light falls –

And there it is again, that reminder, that possibility of things being different – wilder, thicker, deeper and eternally more true –

And the invitation to walk right on in.

natural archway through a hedge

A Touch of Frost

The weather has been turning.

After weeks of gentle sunshine, autumn shook itself into winter with winds and rain.

Suddenly the trees are bare, silhouette gorgeous, and reminding me again how much I love the aesthetics of winter, if not the absence of light.

Yesterday we had a first scattering of snow, and the leaves and late flowers were touched at the edges with frost.

frost curling the edges of a purple flower

Out in the world, it’s hard not to feel like we’re in a winter season. Things can seem very dark.

It’s hard for any of us to make any sense of it. I don’t think there’s sense to be made of it.

It often feels discordant to keep focusing on beauty, on the soft loveliness of the world in the face of such harshness, such darkness, but also wrong to stop, and an affirmation of something important to keep saying otherwise.

purple flower fading in winter

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