All is still, and quiet as the early winter sun appears over the rooftops. The freshness of a new day is so welcome when the sun’s warmth is rising. Even in the cold a sunny day makes so much difference. A new day comes pristine, hopeful and full of possibilities. This is ‘day’s most sacred hour‘ – a daily gift of grace,
“The innocent brightness of a new-born day
Is lovely yet.”
From Wordsworth’s Ode: ‘Intimations of Immortality’
How do we spend it? The best intentions and resolutions so often fade. The new day can be quickly spoiled. Today is special and precious, I don’t want to waste it.
“Dawn overpowering me past my own power of making;
Glorious as West Country / dawns show,/ days first most-sacred hour.
No music in me to fit that great life-in-flood awakening,” (sic)
From Ivor Gurney’s unfinished version of the poem ‘Dawns I have seen over the Cotswolds’
The morning winter sunlight, for a brief moment, is lighting up these trees and creating some strange shadow effects. The houses in the distance are also catching the sunlight, giving a cheering start to another day. I wonder how others in the village have been waking today
Winter is a time of waiting . Looking forward adds to the pleasure as we begin to enjoy the future with anticipation. But we can also enjoy the delights of winter now, with low sun throwing unexpected scenes in the landscape and decorating the woods. We see new views opening up that were unnoticed in summer. We look up and admire the fine tracery of branches of trees standing proud against a winter sky, their buds waiting all prepared for spring.
Some days, pulling the curtains in the evenings and switching on the central heating is a great relief. This log pile is waiting to go on someone’s wood burner and give out its heat. A cosy old custom being revived. Summer sunshine stored up ready for use.
This winter wheat crop is waiting to grow. It will green the landscape, provide an income for a farmer, work for a miller and a baker as well as food for ourselves.
The autumn sown Sweet peas are waiting ready for an early display along with potted Crocus (to flower indoors) and Broad beans – for some nectar for the early bees. The seed catalogues wait to tempt us to try something new from seed this year. We look at our photos of last year’s garden for inspiration – what better tonic could there be on a cold mid-winter day!
‘Safer than a Known Way‘
But this winter dawn waits also for us to make some decisions about the way we should go this year. With so many choices we can too easily drift into a year of ‘being half present in a hundred places, but never fully present where we are.’ To avoid this, we must focus. Like Robert Frost’s poem ‘The Road not Taken’ we have to choose.
The way I want to choose is the way our King George VI followed in his Christmas broadcast on the BBC in 1939. These words struck a chord with a country facing the uncertainty of war:
And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”
And he replied:
“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God. That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”
From the poem ‘God Knows’ by Minnie Louise Haskins
The Miracle of Dunkirk
As it turned out these were timely words. Five months later our nation faced disaster at Dunkirk. Again the King called our people to desperate prayer for our trapped British army. Thousands responded, crowding into the churches to pray — and God answered in the remarkable ‘Miracle of Dunkirk’.
For several days stormy weather kept the Luftwaffe grounded. This was followed by days of remarkably calm sea enabling that armada of little vessels to cross the channel. Added to this, unexpected hesitation by Hitler allowed 338,000 British and allied troops to be safely evacuated from the beaches, Even Churchill thought we would only be able to rescue about 20,000-30,000 men. Again the King called the nation, this time for a Day of Thanksgiving on June 9th.
Beginning the year in prayer for God’s guidance, as in the winter of 1939/40, is the best start to any year. If you’d like to see how I want to start the new year, have a look at my first few Turning Aside pages.
Wishing you God’s rich blessings in 2018.
4 thoughts on “A Winter Dawn”
This is such a lovely post, Richard. I’m afraid I have done no preparation for the new year at all! In recent years I have had to take each day as it comes and any preparation has often been wasted time. My poor garden has suffered the most but one day I am sure I will have the time I need to have a garden I am proud of.
Your comments in your ‘waiting’ paragraphs really resonate with me. I love to see the bare trees and their branches stretching out skywards. I like the low sun (though not when I’m driving into it!) and the long shadows it makes.
Best wishes to you and your family!
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Thank you Clare. I’m sorry I forgot to re-set the settings correctly for this post! I think no preparation time is wasted – but the benefits don’t always appear immediately. Do keep us posted about your garden and pond. It sounds fascinating to have Greylag geese, otters and the other wildlife.
Such a beautiful start to the year Richard, I love the silent beauty of your words and pictures and the resonance of those ‘waitings’.
Thank you Andrea. Waiting is such an important ‘activity’. Waiting in expectation adds so much to the glory of spring. As with the rhythm of the seasons, everything is poised in God’s good timing. There’s always ‘more’ to come. Wonderful thought!