Outlook Issue 22 Winter 2016
News and Views from St. Mary's Woodbridge
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Seasonal dark – with the promise of light
Seasonal dark – with the promise of light ‘Blow, blow, thou winter wind’ – these words of Shakespeare were put to music by Roger Quilter, who died in 1953 and lies buried in the family vault in Bawdsey Church. Winter is a time of passing, of light receding, darkness breeding. Animals hibernate, birds migrate. Most of our flora is dormant. The darkness is overpowering, sapping energy and intent. It was worse when the author was young. Candles, paraffin lamps, many rural dwellings did not have electricity. In the desperate days between 1939 and 1945 there was a complete ban on outside lighting – ‘blind as bats’, we were! But bats have their own radar, and yet wisely sleep the winters away. In the days of yore, rush-lights – dried rush stems dipped in animal fat, and the flowering Giant Mullein (pictured), dried and soaked in similar fashion – gave some degree of light in hall and hovel. In cold homes, dried branches of trees, or bundles of twigs, burned desultorily. In halls, homes of the powerful, they would have their roaring fires, great boughs of dried oak, giving light and warmth. A need to forage … In the changing days of autumn leading to winter, men and beasts would forage for nuts and anything edible to assuage their hunger. Crab apples would survive a frost or two, nuts and seeds would fall from hazel and beech. If ponds and rivers had not frozen, men’s ingenuity would find ways of catching fish, or eels, from the river bottom. What animal flesh was available had to be salted to preserve it for as long as possible. Emaciated Red or Roe Deer, seeking a winter’s bit of dried grass or moss, would also become man’s next meal. Nature’s hibernation plans do not include humans, but badgers, hedgehogs, dormice, and all reptiles become comatose for several months. And, suddenly, streaks of morning light! Glimmers of the sun, some warmth. After all those long nights, and deprivation, small wonder that our ancestors so readily celebrated the light, and being set free from the darkness. Let us, too, celebrate the Light. And be grateful for life’s gifts, so freely given, and welcome the Light into our hearts and our homes, our hearths and our houses. Christ tells us: ‘I AM the Light.’ Michael Stagg