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Winter, beautifully still and pristine, December 2022

It's 15 December 2022, after a warm Autumn that gave us dahlias and roses well into November, we move from one extreme to another with a north arctic air that has brought dry weather and -12 temperatures. It changes everything. Every leaf, twig and tree, every blade of grass, every surface is polished with silver. As I walk around the farm and the woods around my home, I am moved by the sight of trees clad to their hollows in frost, a velvet scene, alabaster carved, beautifully still and pristine. I find the enforced downtime (planting bulbs is impossible in frozen earth) the perfect place to settle myself both mentally and physically. Reaching a state of comfort with a slower pace is difficult when you have been so hardwired by habitual busyness and the pressure of productivity. But I find it essential in order to properly reflect on the year. I spent most of the morning reading and watching a blackbird on my front wall carefully picking at the food I had put out for it, watching this flitting creature hurriedly eating morsels of nuts, apples and cheese, looking out on the landscape and quietly singing to itself.

Walking around in the quiet countryside, I am immersed in the tranquil ecstasy of nature. I feel at peace as the environment around me takes possession of me, each inhale of icy breath seems to imbue new life and a feeling of rest. Like menthol desensitising the nerve endings with a cool-hot balm. A few blackbirds seem to follow me on walks, rustling and foraging among the leaves, black feathers and yellow beaks loud against all this white brilliance, such a high contrast colour combination that brings to mind bumble bees and the painted lines on roads. There is not much that can be done in this weather, the ground is too hard for the last few thousand bulbs we have left to plant and its much too cold to spend any length of time outside. We try not to worry, an opportune time will come soon. Being forced to stay at home, each idle hour is more cherished because of a busy time earned elsewhere. We deserve the rest, I remind myself. There is a wonderful satisfaction in leaving behind the hustle and bustle of the summer. I wear this work on my body, calloused hands, chapped skin, knots in my shoulders and back, tiredness. I settle in and surrender to the winter with the cold weather supporting this fully. I respond to this winter invitation by allowing myself long stretches at home; hot chocolate, warm baths and candles feeling like necessities. Winter is the time for home. The colours are the sky are softer, when the sun sets the sky seems higher and my time to gaze at it stretches out timelessly. I am in no rush for anything.

In the past, I associated this festive season with pressure; increased workload, events, deadlines, 'clearing your desk before the holidays', social obligations, financial fears (can I afford all the gifts and nights out?), all of this amassing at a time of year when my energies were depleted and burn out on the horizon. Taking public transport within an inner city to an office without natural daylight, dreading the cold, emerging to the fresh air only in the dark hours of the early morning or early evening. A time spent barely managing my low energy and requirement for a 'final push' at work. When the holidays did arrive, I found myself in a state of recovery rather than rest, only to be swept up in the bustle of Christmas obligations. I believe that routines need to be reviewed constantly and as the new year draws into view, it is the perfect time for introspection. After a large project for COP26 in November 2021, we vowed to make our November and December in 2022 slower and more spacious, more restful, spend more time on the farm planting our bulbs. I have been more consciously committed to welcoming and making change my life since starting Days of Dahlia. Slowing down and creating an equilibrium between work and rest has been challenging, especially when you love your work. I constantly ask myself, "What do I want to do today/this week/this month?" The answer is sometimes productive, sometimes not, work related or personal, and can range from anything from flower arranging at home, playing with my dog, improving my photography skills, to writing a business plan, spending time with a friends, exercising, doing nothing... These things might sound very simple, but have been become a critically important part of regaining agency in my life and living by my own whim, even if those whims are only 30 minutes spent doing an activity that I chose to do. I do this to feel more proactively involved in meaningful, impactful, satisfying, and joyful creativity and to figure out how elements of productivity can intersect with enjoyment and my passions. This nurturing of self is reliant on and indebted to connecting with flowers, with the land, with the seasons, with nature, with others.

I feel acutely aware this year of the concerns and insecurity many of us are feeling, undoubtedly 2022 has been very difficult. I urge you all to find space this season for that question, what do I want to do today? It might be a big change or a small one, it might be doing exactly what you did yesterday but with intention and knowing that you are putting energy into your body before it needs it.

It's time now for a long and slow inhale and release. I hope that you can all quiet and peace as we head towards the winter solstice and the end of December. Under the ground, each bulb, root and seed contains all the magic which will resurrect the beauty of Spring, we rest now in anticipation of partaking in this beautiful continuity once again.

Lauren & Louisina x

Collecting evergreens in early December for our wreath workshops, an ancient tradition.

Close up of our studio Christmas tree, decked with bows and lights.

Making wreaths in the studio.

Photo opportunity in rare and fleeting winter sunshine.

Pleasant shadows on the studio walls.

Wreath or 'welcome ring', a must have for a festive door.

Weaving our wreath bases with willow branches from the farm.

Louisina and one of our wreath creations.

The big freeze arrives.

Wire fences looking like rose stems adorned with delicate thorns of frost.

Cedar with a fresh dusting of snow.

Holly and berries looking like a perfect Christmas card.

Cedar nuts, the perfect adornments.

Spending time at home to decorate my Christmas tree.

Frosted ferns in a leafy undergrowth.

Little robin.

The frozen loch in front of my home.

Skeletal angelica flowers, empty after casting their seed in Autumn.

View out over the frozen loch.

Wrapping presents.

The viburnum casts its leaves in winter to reveal clusters of delicate pink flowers, a special sight in the winter garden.

Snowy lanes at home.

Perfect golden sunsets.

Sunlight sparkling through frost.

The sky looking bluer and higher in the drama of a frosty landscape.

Dried grasses transformed by little whiskers of frost.


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