Winter Findings

Last night the ‘Merry with Flame and Song’ creative course came to its conclusion. The session was on-line after unexpected heavy snowfall over Orkney the night before. It was a happenstance occurrence that both disrupted but also gifted richness to the session as memories of a changed world were fresh in participant’s minds.

The final prompt for our warm-up free writing was ‘I give myself permission to…’

It aims to give a moment of reflection on letting go and moving on from things that have been blocked or are holding creativity back. I ended my piece with ‘Age is just a number!’ (I had given myself permission earlier in the day to make a fine snow angel in the fresh snow on the stretch of open land between Kirkwall and St Ola. Yes, I did get a bit snow covered, but it was all good.)

I feel that this is a course completed rather than ended and that the participants all have different creative journeys ahead of them. Even if what prompts them is challenging or puzzling there is enthusiasm to try and to value that process.

These sessions have been very enjoyable for me to facilitate and have gifted a number of poems. I have written my way through January and here we are, the light is returning. It does take energy to give these sessions, but it leaves a satisfying tiredness behind. The prompts to not always work for me – I always join in – and this teaches and reminds me that creativity is not an on-off tap, but it does want regular attention. The act of giving attention is engagement, and this is its own success.

As a final exercise the group wrote poems about their winter week, partly inspired by the poem Beachcomber by George Mackay Brown. We crafted together images taken from the activities from over the past six weeks and wove them together. They were marvellously varied. What delighted me is all the attention to words.

My own winter week poem is light and fleeting in contrast to the dark heavy days. It is something imperfect, but merry with flame and song.


Winter Week

On Monday, a candle sweetens the kitchen, be gone fried fish!

On Tuesday, the crows speak more sense than the radio.

On Wednesday, a memory of side-splitting laughter and astonished passers-by

On Thursday, fresh paint changes everything, a coming of age.

On Friday, doughnuts eaten without licking lips, agony and ecstasy.

On Saturday, it’s quicker to walk than defrost the car, the heart is glad.

On Sunday, nothing to do but clean and be thankful, at the end there’s dark chocolate.


February 7th 2024


Snow angel, Gabrielle Barnby, Orkney, poem

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Gabrielle Barnby