Tag Archives: days of darkness

River Dee

4 Jun

It’s the season of goodbye and hello, here in England.  And while it is June, it is raining and chill, with only rare outbreaks of sun.  The light wakes me up at 4am and keeps the kids awake past 9pm, which is a difficult sort of wonderful — since the alternative is the winter darkness that seriously screws me up each year.  Still, it hasn’t been a fantastic few weeks, here inside my head.  So, have a picture of the beautiful River Dee, running through royal Balmoral, and turn your mental eyes to the sun of Scotland in spring.

20140418_101739No filter, no editing in this photo — knowing this moment existed in my life is like having a cup of coffee that never runs out.  Look back, take a sip, feel the moment once again, and move forward in the day.  Hope those little moments are there for all of you, too.


Mistletoe kiss

21 Dec

We’ve done it.  We’ve made it.  Winter solstice.  The year spins, and spring renews the promise to return.

Today I let my thoughts wander over romantic and slightly creepy poetry, with a visual meditation on wild mistletoe found on a winter walk.


by Walter de la Mare

Sitting under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
One last candle burning low,
All the sleepy dancers gone,
Just one candle burning on,
Shadows lurking everywhere:
Some one came, and kissed me there.

Tired I was; my head would go
Nodding under the mistletoe
(Pale-green, fairy mistletoe),
No footsteps came, no voice, but only,
Just as I sat there, sleepy, lonely,
Stooped in the still and shadowy air
Lips unseen—and kissed me there.

O Tannenbaum

17 Dec

Another holiday snapshot, to help us through these darkest days of winter.  The beautiful Christmas tree at Bourton-on-the-Water, which we have visited each holiday season in England so far. (Year one. Year two.)


A gentle winter afternoon walk, accompanied by ducks and the occasional brave tourist.  Breathe – soltice is almost here.

The heart of memory

9 Dec

I do try.  I try not to obsess about the days of darkness.  I try to talk about something else … anything else.  I try not to give up and go to sleep at 7pm, because it’s been dark for three hours already and who cares anymore.  I keep making meals for the family, keep wandering through my routines, keep tying myself into to the small knots of details that make up a pattern of life even when it all seems pointless.  I remind myself of days where the sun shone endlessly over green fields.  I remind myself of when the sun was so bright it hurt my eyes and I could fling my arms wide and fold it into my skin.  It seems unfair that even in those summer days, I carried the fear of winter coiled in my heart.  Now that winter has fallen, where is my internal memory of summer, to keep me warm?

IMG_0559edI’m making a deliberate effort to work on my gratitude.  To notice and appreciate the unique experiences and opportunities of living in this country.  Like getting to hang out in Shakespeare’s hometown on my birthday, and contemplate the passing of time with a sundial in his daughter’s garden.

Come what come may, time and the hour run through the roughest day.

God, I hope so.


19 Nov

It’s survival time here in England.  The days of darkness are NOW.  Every day, as the minutes click down in our quota of daylight until we reach solstice, I spend each day trying not to lose my mind.  Pretty much.  I don’t want to exaggerate or anything.  I will simply assure you, with one hundred percent accuracy, that any day you see me standing upright and able to communicate in anything close to sensible speech is a day in which I have already conquered my demons and barely — barely — won through to survive one more day.

Every.  Single.  Day.


I spent some time last year thinking about ways to survive these black days.  I followed my own advice last year, and didn’t completely lose it until about December 20th.  This year I’ve been following more of the same, although I think it’s safe to say I’ve kicked up the exercise (including lots of outdoor muddy running) and had a bigger focus on food for (mental) health.  Still.  Even sitting in front of my fire, mince pie (gluten and dairy free!), coffee, and vitamin c orange ready, snuggly blanket and cheerful laptop by my side … it’s rough.  It is ROUGH.

Death has been my companion for too much of this year.  I’m cold way down deep in my bones.  Thirty two days to solstice.  Let’s just keep holding on.

On the right foot

9 Sep


I found myself talking with someone new the other day.  She was new to Britain; new to town; new to the school.  Lots of newness.  A bright shining cup full of newness, and I found myself wanting to distill all my past two years into three or four intensely important dollops of wisdom to pour into that cup.  Everything I wished I had known, particularly about school life, in four minutes or less.

Is it bad that the first things I mentioned were lice, pinworms, fifth’s disease, and strep throat?  Because as I spent our first winter reeling to discover — Britain is full of cooties.  For any American mother experiencing the rather laissez-faire British attitude toward childhood nuisance illnesses, it is very nearly shocking to see these ailments go round and round and round the school.

Next up: the days of darkness.  I’m not sure how to warn people about the descent of darkness without sounding like a vampy extra from a bad Dracula movie.  But people, it is real.  Winter darkness, even at this relatively lower latitude, is enough to depress, to dishearten, to distress, to despair.   When the kids go to school in the dark, and come home in the dark, and there’s only a dim crack of sunshine around noon … I shudder.   I’ll be taking my daily dose of blue light starting next month, and gritting my teeth for solstice.

Realizing I was on a demoralizing roll, I still felt I had to mention that joining the school community was not as straightforward as the typical suburban American mom might expect.  Here on the blog I’ve alluded to what some people call ‘politics at the school gate’, and how difficult that was for me.  My first year at school was spent as the invisible woman.  It gets better through some complicated British alchemy of people ignoring you when you are outgoing and friendly, and then reaching out once you stop caring.  How to distill all this down for someone filled with fresh-faced excitement?  “It’s not like back home — but I’m sure you’ll be fine!”  Perkiness in the face of adversity.  How American of me.

And a final tip — I have a feeling no non-native adult person can understand the school uniform.  We come to it too late in life.  Just as our children grow up understanding ipods and tumblr as a first language, they pick up the requirements of the uniform, with its multiple socks and wellies and plimsolls and hats and blouses and swim caps and bags and trainers,  through some peer-fostered osmosis.  Just throw money at the uniform shop, and let the kids sort it out.

And then I realized that over quiet sips of a very nice coffee, I had just told this lovely new person that her children would be subject to disease, she would descend into seasonal affective disorder, British mothers would treat her like a leper, and she was about to lose all her money to an unsolvable uniform puzzle.  Oh, and did I mention the GIANT SPIDERS?   Welcome to Britain!

Sigh.  We’ve been in Camelot two years, as of this month.  England is beautiful, and this country is wonderful, but for these few things I wish I had been warned.  I wish I had been prepared.  So from me to you, if you are planning to move to England or to live here temporarily: it’s not all crumpets and jam.  Just try to embrace it.  Even when it’s freezing and dark.  I’m sure you’ll be fine.

When the sun shines

26 Aug

Someone told me this was the best summer England has had in years.  That depresses me beyond words.  I admit, we have had many good days of sunshine in the past month or two.  In my usual fashion, a glimmer of sunshine makes me forget all the darkness that came before, and will inevitably return.  So today, while the sun shines, I think summer will last forever.  But — brrr — the days of darkness are coming … just not yet.  And when the sun shines on a bright bank holiday weekend, we head out to events like the Blenheim Palace Festival of Transport.  That’s a fancy name for ‘car show in a field.’

Since I can reliably identify something with four wheels and at least one door as a ‘car’ — and there my expertise ends — I must admit I mostly followed after my son as he exclaimed about numbers and engines and age and other esoterica.  I took photos of things that looked cool to me.


Yeah, that looked pretty cool.IMG_8064

Hey, look, it’s Captain Chantel DuBois’ Vespa! (Gratuitous Madagascar 3 reference.)

Ah, these old hood instruments are just too groovy.IMG_8070


A charming classic cherry red fire engine.IMG_8080

Something with … gears?IMG_8086

Pretty purple Beetle.IMG_8089

Fear and Loathing … or Grateful Dead?IMG_8109

And a chance, later, for a stroll through the grounds and a close up view of the imminent change of seasons.  (See some of my favorite photos of Blenheim.) IMG_8115And the dream of journeying on through this gorgeous country in sunshine and peace.