In my seven years here, I don’t remember it being as cold as it has been this last week. The temperature has dropped into double-digit negative and the ice-sheets extend way out into Findhorn Bay. At night the shifting ice sets up a creaking, cracking cacophony out in the darkness of the bay while the over-wintering geese rail and keen in response. A wild and eerie winter soundscape. The short days are cloudless, with the world fair sparkling in the diamond light.
If I could be here in Findhorn just once in the year, it would be at this time. It is the one period when the guests on programmes and courses, never entirely absent, drop to a trickle and we reclaim the community centre as our own. This year, we have taken out the tables from the centre of the dining area and replaced them with a circle of sofas – an oasis of comfort and intimacy appropriately located at the very heart of the community.
There is a host of rituals that mark this turning point in the year as no other. The season began last weekend with the Winter Gathering, an annual concert of story-telling, dancing and carol-singing that we organise and offer to our friends in the neighbouring towns and villages.
Also already under way is Angels and Mortals, a game wherein each of the players is assigned one mortal to look after for the ten days up to Christmas Eve, anonymously showering them with little gifts and blessings. Each one is both giver (angel) and receiver (mortal), with the anticipation growing up to the denouement of the identity of the angels on Christmas Eve.
This weekend for the Solstice, the Hall will be decked out with candles and on the floor, a great spiral made up of branches cut from our pine forest. We will each have an opportunity to walk the spiral, reflecting on the year gone and considering that to come. Then comes the drawing of angel cards, one for each of us and one for the community as a whole. Each of these cards carries a quality – love, patience, wholeness, synthesis and so on – that may be of help in our journey through the year ahead.
Then the excitement of Christmas Day, one of only two occasions in the year (the other being Rabbie Burns day) when meat is served in the community centre. Rabbie, of course, is celebrated in haggis – Christmas with a big fat local turkey. On Boxing Day, a sizeable group of us walk up in the Cairngorms, thawing out in the evening over thick turkey soup.
Then there will be the Polar Bear run, a speedy dip in the North Sea on New Year’s morning followed by a sauna.
All the while and in-between, a host of gatherings, meals, parties, evenings of games, long walks on the beach and up the Findhorn river, carol singing, meditations and vigils. And barely a television in sight.