January, still

If I could shorten one month it would be January. But then would I also truncate February and halve March? I have an eagerness for the light that makes these dark days a time of restlessness. Partly I wish to hibernate, partly to defy the bleak mid-winter dark and be active and busy. 

To relieve the longest month I have started Merry with flame and song. This series of four sessions seek to find a positive creative outlet for the winter season. Some folk might panic buy noodles when a storm is forecast, or stock up on pasta and fresh vegetables when the boats will not be re-supplying the island. I have a less practical response to winter days and nights. Although having said that it is a practical response in the sense that I curate and organise what I need to get through the time. 

The idea for these sessions came from a wonderful talk by Glenys Hughes for the annual George Mackay Brown Fellowship Lecture in November. The theme was the creative synergy between words (George Mackay Brown) and music (Peter Maxwell Davies). During the talk a quote was read from the unpublished sequence Solstice of Light.

After kindly being provided with a copy of the text I began to read its content closely. The lines have that paradoxical specificity of place and universality of sensibility that Mackay Brown was tuned into expressing. This concentration on words releases tension within me, connecting through, with and in the creative moment of expression – and creating a desire to somehow contribute and join in the song. I offer up a mind open to ideas that may provide nourishment (and fun) for myself and others. Four themes emerged, none are earth-shattering in their novelty, but they gather around them the energy that I feel will kindle hope in January.

I scurry to my poetry books, flipping pages, sifting, searching for complementary works to the Solstice of Light, searching for variety and clarity of expression that will invite others to a place they can reflect and create.

The first session New Hills has already taken place. It is a relief that the new prompts were helpful in opening up creative responses. The wide variety of writing indicates to me that the room for individual interpretation is present. This is good. 

‘The time flew by,’ this comment makes me smile. It indicates that a state of flow has been reached, a place of deep engagement, such as is reached by children as they watch a snail emerge and is often lost to adults as close observation is eroded by the hustle of daily life.

If only time would fly for the whole of January, wouldn’t that be marvellous. 

There is solace in words for me, and in shared creative processes. I may knock in pegs and hook on a line, but without company it would be a lonely climb.

So easy not to do, never to do this sort of thing, to search for new hills. But then how slow not just January, but the whole of life would be. 

January, Orkney, rooftops, Gabrielle Barnby, creative writing

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Gabrielle Barnby