I took the above picture in the National Botanic Gardens last week – which is, incidentally, one of my favourite places to go when I’m in any way stressed or worried. It is a place where I can be still and just breathe. This single daffodil, positioned as it was amidst an entire bed of still-dormant stalks, moved me in a way that I find difficult to explain. This solitary flower of the bunch struck me as a symbol of hope: a sign of warmer weather and more joyous days to come.
I have never been formally diagnosed with Seasonal Affective Disorder (largely because I don’t like going to the doctor for any reason, and my changes in mood have never seemed severe enough to require medical attention) but I’ve long been aware that something within me is affected by the gradual changes in temperature and daylight to a degree that seems a little strange to many people I know.
Very few people I’ve met have an active preference for winter over summer. The general consensus seems to be that the darkening skies and plummeting temperatures of late autumn inevitably evoke feelings of trepidation and gloom, even in the most resilient among us. Still, I have noticed that as soon as late September comes around, my mood takes a noticeably lower dip than would be considered normal. When condensation begins to appear on my window each morning and the temperature goes through a sudden drop, a part of me begins to mourn (as melodramatic as that may sound).
In the very depths of winter, I often find comfort by remembering what a pivotal time this part of the year has traditionally been in the Celtic calendar. Dolores Whelan’s beautiful book Ever Ancient, Ever New has helped me greatly in that respect. On her website, she says:
The Celtic year begins at Samhain because the people who created the ancient calendar of this country believed, as all primal people do, that all new life emerges from the darkness. Samhain is also the most important festival in the calendar and yet it evokes deep fear in us modern human beings. The entrance into the dark time of the year is extremely challenging to us 21st century humans, addicted as we are to light and outward activity. As we cross the Samhain gate, the invitation is into Stillness, Inner Activity, Being and Surrender. Samhain is a time to reflect on our lives and to evaluate the different aspects of our lives during the past year: a time to give thanks for what has been achieved and to accept those things that were not completed and which must be left unfinished until the dark time of the year is over.
I eagerly await the arrival of March each year, because I know that I can always look forward to an upturn in my mood when it comes along, bringing brighter days, daffodils, and – at the end of the month – an extra hour of evening light! My usual March euphoria was marked by a certain level of confusion this year because of the Beast From the East, but I was able to enjoy the snow because of its sheer novelty value … as well as the fact that the evenings weren’t as dark as they would have been had the snow visited us in December or January.
In fact, I greatly appreciated the stunning visibility and brightness that the snow provided at night.
I also loved the natural sepia tone of every nighttime photograph I took.
On the day of the spring equinox, I was bustling about – doing this, that and the other, finishing household chores, carrying on with all of the things that have to be done in everyday life – but there was a subtle undertone of euphoria to everything I did, because I was thrilled about the fact that this day had arrived at long last. I love the spring equinox because it represents a major turning point towards the return of the light. The sun was shining so brightly that day, there was nothing for it but to head for the Botanic Gardens and enjoy their beauty!
These pictures of the Botanic Gardens’ famed greenhouse were taken just two days apart.
As I approached my favourite tree in the gardens, I saw that there had been a recent felling. I momentarily panicked, thinking that the one I loved had been chopped down … but luckily, it was still standing (it’s on the left in the picture below). It would truly break my heart if I ever arrived one day to find it gone.
The reason this tree is so dear to me is because in one little hollow, the face of a curious elf peers out!
The rose garden lies still and empty at the moment. In summer, it is a riot of colour and activity, thronged with children, families, groups of friends and couples both young and old. I long to see it like that once again.
Its time will come.
Little by little, we are turning towards the light, and this gladdens my heart.