Deep time and Solsticetide

I love this time of year, when the world holds its breath and the stillness and quiet of Solsticetide cradle my starburst brain like a soft pair of doves wings, or a gentle pair of mothering hands.  I feel myself sinking into the quiet earth, sensing an echo of myself where all appears dormant on the surface yet there is the hushed industry of creative transformation happening beneath; the microfauna and flora carrying out their hidden, vital work in the soil. At this time of year, the sun rises like my children creeping into our room at night; aware they shouldn’t really be there, but safe and secure in the knowledge that a reassuring snuggle can be found in the dark.

As I sit quietly and knit I look out of my window to the north, the direction of deep winter and the earth according to Druid practice, to the hills and woods on the other side of one of the many valleys. I see the mast rising from the woods, and wonder what secrets it is whispering to its Severnside beacon brethren. My view is scribbled upon by lines – of telegraph wires, and skeletal, beautiful winter trees. I imagine their branches to be fractal; splitting and branching endlessly, beyond the limits of the small twigs we can see, carrying on invisibly (to us) above what appears to be the limits of its crown and up into the sky until the whole world is held by an interlaced network of ghost twigs.

Our Victorian house holds the memory of over 120 winters in its bones. 120 years of providing warmth, and shelter within its red brick walls. I feel time collapsing as I sit and knit and listen to the tick of the clock into deep time, solstice time. I sit here in an old house, watching an eerie 1970’s ghost story on the television about a time 300 years past when people starved through lack of bread and work, working this ancient technology of wool and needle, taught to me by my grandmother, the wool spun from the fleece of a creature who fed on grass that was itself fed by soil and old sunlight and rains.

I sit and knit, a furry black comma of dog curled up on my lap, and my brain idles and sifts through images and ideas; the perfection of the colours of bronze and copper and a midnight blue hue; an old 1930’s radio, stripped out and filled with bone and twig and rust; a jumper of colours of bark and lichen made up from the softest wool.

This collapsing of time feels so real, I imagine I can see past echoes of myself, alternative never-were versions, all the Charlottes that could have been – and that I sometimes wish had been, as I grow older and sense doors that once were open closing to me– stretching out and up and in all directions. This turns out to be an echo of the future – two days later I find exactly this image in a graphic novel I haven’t read for a decade and more.  I feel dreamy, as though if I only had the right movement or word, I could slip sideways into these other selves, live their lives.

It is Solstice time, magical still time, liminal borderlands edgelands time. These days, we know when the solstices occur with astronomical precision. We have pinned them down like butterflies in a glass case. By this understanding of time, this year the winter Solstice will happen at 10.02 in the morning on the 21 December. Our ancestors relied on the relationship between their senses and their surroundings to tell time, sometimes building monuments of wood and stone to mark it; and the word solstice means ‘sun stands still’ – such an evocative phrase – as the sun appeared to rise and set in the same place for three days. I think that sight was only one of the senses they used. There is a feeling of solstice that goes beyond our usual five senses, even stronger in these quietened Coronatimes, a stone time, a bone time, a time of deep time and deep earth, and I feel it now, as we edge closer to the time when the sun hangs motionless in the sky, and the day starts drawing to a close though its only three o’clock.

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