Going straight into winter on the tail of November’s election upset didn’t bode well for those of us in Northern climes, especially if you happen to suffer from a touch of Seasonal Affective Disorder or vitamin D deficiency around certain times of year. ‘There’s no bad weather, just bad clothing’ we like to say here, knowing that the worst thing for Winter blues is to let them keep us holed-up in solitude. To beat the soul-sucking cold and grey, the best thing to do is to willingly go out into it. Light a fire, embrace the ice and don’t let it win. This is why we celebrate light during the darkest time of the year, and why those who haven’t experienced this trial don’t understand it’s great value as a galvanizing force.
Light it up; stoking a cob oven hearth to feed the spirit. Photograph by Craig Barres.
The ritual of a purifying fire doesn’t, of course, always have to coincide with the cold season, it can be utilized at any point on the calendar wheel. Summer, Fall or Spring will do nicely as well, all we need do is embody our intent in a physical representation and set it ablaze to release it back into the universe. This has been performed in religious festivals for millennia, and continues to be observed in modern equivalents like the Rainbow Gathering and Burning Man, among others. There’s something about these symbolic acts that we need psychologically, something in them that acts as our reset button.
Pre-burn; temples and Man from the few times I made it to Burning Man.
I have always found this to be a powerful time of year for recalibrating my senses, operating philosophy and will. Like a clockwork mechanism, as the year comes to a close, I am suddenly compelled to research and re-write my assumptions, simplify my parti, and plant the seeds of next year’s new growth. Sort of a chicken-and-the-egg thing, I’m unclear as to whether it’s the dead of Winter or my fruitful darkness that comes first, but they’re always coupled and working together unseen. Like Persephone, certain to return in Spring, I’ll be biding my time in my own private underworld until then.
A good portion of my work over the last seven years has been silently accumulating in sketchbooks and in my sample library. There have been many iterations of the work, from small architecture to cob ovens, ceramic vessels to wearable sculpture. If there is supposed to be an obvious path forward, I haven’t seen it, but maybe I never looked. What I have seen is so much of life’s everyday quiet moments, a poetry of the senses, and the constant procession of time. I feel full of words waiting to fall out of my mind and images that need to be shaken out of my hands. The brilliance of this light is only made brighter by the intensity of the darkness, maybe that’s the real secret of this season’s regenerative wonder.