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A true gift in the darkness of winter nights


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Northern Drift by Monique Sliedrecht

Sun over Freswick Castle, Freswick Bay.
Sun over Freswick Castle, Freswick Bay.

In these short days of darkest nights, the stars shine brightly when the sky is clear, like white jewels in the atmosphere.

When we look up, the grandness of the universe can fill us with awe. It is impossible to comprehend. All along, people have tried to understand our galaxy more – astrologers, physicists, engineers, astronauts, scientists…

At the start of a new year, it is interesting to reflect on a journey made by early astrologers who followed a bright star so many years ago. As the story goes, the three wise men became aware of a special and unique alignment that announced the coming of a king, and so they were keen to see where this celestial marvel would lead them.

They thought well in advance about the gifts they would bring and carried them on their long journey. These gifts were of a truly special nature. Often we see them pictured as beautiful bottles being held by each wise man.

These gifts were not just mere perfumes or decoration, but they held great value and significance that were intended for different stages of that child’s life. To some the gifts symbolise three aspects of the baby king’s future journey – gold representing kingship, frankincense (worship) and myrrh (death and mourning).

I had the pleasure of taking two young children out to see the film Encanto in Thurso cinema a few days ago. It was a treat to see such a vibrant moving picture on a large screen together.

Equally stirring was this story about a family living in the mountains of Columbia in a place called the Encanto, which means ‘charmed’ in Spanish. The magic of the Encanto had blessed every child in the family with a unique gift – every child except Mirabel.

However, she becomes the family’s last hope when she discovers that the magic surrounding the Encanto is now fading and they have to discover why. Mirabel discovers the truth that she is precious for who she is, not what she can do.

It is lovely to give gifts – and to receive them! But unmatched by any material item is the gift of presence; being there for one another, extending a hand, acknowledging a star in the sky and standing in awe for a while; and simply being – being who we are.

Stepping forward with honesty, kindness, gentleness, courage, vulnerability, without hiding behind a self-made religion or mask drawn from fear and pride, is a kind of presence that we are reminded of in the Christmas story.

In ancient tradition the 12 days of Christmas are a celebration throughout January, which is the season of Epiphany. This was seen as a time of illumination for the wise men and the whole world.

This period ends with the lighting of the candles on February 2 at Candlemas, which used to be one of the great winter festivals. Our contemporary idea of new year resolutions has a connection to this concept of seeking new light and inspiration.

In my studio I have a small note on my pinboard that I wrote once: "What would I do today if I were brave?"

The answer might involve being present – showing up for myself, for others… with my failures, warts and all. This is the message of Encanto – discovering that I am accepted for who I am, and learning to accept others as they are.

Happy 2022!


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