It's the morning of November the first as I write this, which is still technically a part of Samhain— Celtic new year, and the third harvest celebration. Samhain was (and still is for some) a celebration of the abundance of the year, a time for slaughtering of animals, and a time for Winter preparations in the fields, the barn, the kitchen, and the mind. Although the Autumn Equinox is well behind us, Samhain is the time of the year when the long days really seem to slip away and the dark intensity of long nights begins to set in. We're part of the way to the longest night of the year, but it feels as though it is dark for much longer.
For us at the 43rdish parallel, the sun doesn't break above the horizon until 7am and sets again at about a quarter past five. We're spending a lot more time indoors as the air gets cooler (although, thank you, El Niño, for our freakish November weather), watching more movies, and spending more time swaddled in blankets with a book. Slowly, as the trees shrug off the last of their leaves and the last of the crops are brought indoors for canning and storage, we turn inwards.
For some people, this time of year can be a sanctuary, for others, a dark, long, unpleasant trap. Though I've had my beef with Winter in the past, and still struggle with Seasonal Affective Disorder, I've come to be able to find appreciation for each of the offerings of the seasons. Though it is often bitterly cold here in the Winter, spending time indoors can be a great time to explore the self and your creativity.
AS WITHIN SO WITHOUT
The dark time of the year is a fantastic time to begin exploring the dark side of yourself; this is not as dramatic as it sounds! For much of the warmer parts of the year, we are too busy in one way or another to really take the time to spend time with ourselves in solitude. As the days grow shorter and colder, take this time to begin to journal and explore those parts of yourself which might take a little digging to find. In beginning to learn more about our Shadow-self, we may come to find aspects of ourselves which don't sit well with us at the surface. Do I really have such selfish tendencies? Do I gossip about others? Perhaps I have a serious negative self-talk problem (raise your hand if you've ever felt like a shitbag after calling yourself names).
This is good. It's in discovering these aspects of our self that we can come to acknowledge them, accept them as being a part of our self, and work on turning them into more productive, self-loving, and positive habits. Sound good?
EXPLORE WITH CREATIVITY
I'm not going to suggest that every creative endeavour in the Winter needs to be soul-deep, but it is a great time to really delve into those projects which get at the core of things, that deal with the complex, knotty issues that have been building up in your mind throughout the hurried part of the year. Journalling, painting, drawing, collage, scrapbooking, dance, and making music are really great ways to both discover the shadow parts of yourself, as well as work through any issues that you might encounter on the journey (scroll to the bottom for a subscriber exclusive list of creative prompts for the upcoming Wintery season!).
If you're not sure where to start, I highly recommend some stream of consciousness journalling, or drawing a few tarot cards— am I'm not talking about from some fortune-telling perspective here. Tarot cards can be a seriously potent tool for drawing out inspiration, to act as a mirror for reflection, and to give you a new perspective on an issue you've been sitting with for a long time. Many times, there is simply an aspect of issue that we simply hand not been able to see before, which comes into clarity with external influence— really, the answers are within you.
DO BATTLE WITH S.A.D.
Creativity and many kinds of depression are linked in a paradoxical circle of frustration. Depression can inhibit creativity, and creative endeavours can help with depression. What gives? If you find yourself getting a little blue in the Winter, taking up a creative hobby with a visible progression of completeness can really help with this. Is Visible Progression of Completeness something I totally made up?
You bet it is. But the science agrees with my nonsense words. Having a task at hand like knitting can really help with mood disorders of all sorts, as it is both repetitive and meditative, but also builds upon itself as you go along. You can see the results moments after you've put in the effort, and after a week or so, you have socks (or a month or so, if you have second sock syndrome)!
This is also a great time to take up learning a new art! It's much easier to attempt to pick up something new when you can work at it consistently and frequently, and what better time to do that than when it's -30, your nose hairs are freezing, and the airs hurts your face, am I right? Take on a skill you've always wanted to acquire and try to stick to it every day for three days. Better hand lettering? Watercolour? Knitting a sweater? Yes you can!
THE GIFT OF CREATIVITY
If you're not really sure what you'd like to work on this season, start by looking outward. If you've been around here for a while, you'll know generally how I feel about the consumer frenzy (and how it can be totally wrecking your creative potential). There is seriously no better way to NOT contribute to this, than to hand craft gifts this holiday season. Forget buying expensive things. Handmade gifts are where it's at. There's literally nothing I would love more as a gift than to receive something that someone else made by hand, whether that was a knit hat, a drawing or painting, or a jar of soap.
It takes time, there's no doubt about that, but it's also deeply satisfying, impactful, and who wants to be in a shopping mall around this time of year anyway? Making your gifts by hand allows you to spend some time living slow, and lets you cultivate skills and creative at the same time. Hurrah!
Save your sanity. Get creative.
CULTIVATE THAT COMMUNITY HYGGE
There it is: that damn Danish word we don't really have a word for in English, but which we like to translate into a sort of content, wintery, intentional coziness.
I think 'intentional' is the key here. In the dark parts of the year, cultivating an atmosphere of comfort and community can be the key to getting through the cold months. Get together with your little ones and teach them how to do a craft— or learn a creative skill together. Paint some watercolour scenes or make Christmas tree ornaments. If you don't have little ones, fear not! Spouses, parents, and somewhat-unwilling siblings all make great companions for making art in the Winter. Although getting creative is often an activity best done alone, it doesn't always have to be the case, especially when you have hygge to cultivate.
Leave the house once in a while and head to your local yarn store for a little knitting jam-time. Or, host a creative get together at your house! Have 50 Christmas cards to send? Need to make candles for all of your closest friends? More hands are better!